Monday, July 1, 2013

AG Kathleen Kane gets money for Mobile Street Crime Strike Force means help for Hazleton

Recent news reports tell the tale of the escalating violent crimes occurring in Hazleton, PA. due to increased gang activity.  Shootings and stabbings gripped Hazleton as it tries to navigate the new population make-up.  Legal immigrants that moved to Hazleton to escape the New York style life full of gangs found the criminals followed them here. 

A defunct agency of the Department of Justice prepared the Eastern Pennsylvania Drug and Gang Threat Assessment in 2011. 

Dominican criminal groups in Hazleton have established new wholesale sources for cocaine that deliver multi-kilogram quantities of cocaine directly to Hazleton each month.  These new drug sources of supply enable Dominican traffickers in Hazleton to operate independently of New York City associates and sources and to maintain a consistent level of drug availability for greater expansion to new midlevel and retail customers.

During Pennsylvania budget negotiations Attorney General Kathleen Kane's requested $3 million dollars be included to fund a mobile street crime unit.  State Sen. John Yudichak, D-14, and state Rep. Tarah Toohil, R-116 announced yesterday that the  $2.5 million dollars in funding was secured.

For Hazleton residents and surrounding communities this news couldn't come at a more appropriate time.

The news was featured in this Standard Speaker.

The funding will allow the Attorney General's Office to implement a mobile street crime unit with the aim of disrupting and dismantling criminal gangs in Pennsylvania.

Kane has said she wants to deploy the unit first in Hazleton.

"This mobile street crime unit is important to send a message to gangs, criminals, and drug dealers - not here, not on our watch and not in Pennsylvania," Yudichak said. "This specialized unit will give the tools to law enforcement and to the Attorney General's Office to work with local police departments to effectively drive gangs out of our schools and out of our neighborhoods."

The AG Mobile Street Crime Strike Force - which was a top priority for Kane - will be an elite unit of highly trained, highly skilled law enforcement agents that will team up with the FBI, the state police and local police departments to end criminal gang operations across Pennsylvania.

"The gangs have been such a big issue in Northeastern Pennsylvania and in the city of Hazleton, this mobile street crime unit will allow the attorney general to come in and augment our police protection," Toohil said. "We really need the boots on the ground, and we really need them in Hazleton."

Hazleton police Chief Frank DeAndrea said he is thrilled that legislators were able to fund the mobile street crime unit.

AG. Kane is quickly establishing her priorities for Pennsylvania.  Chief DeAndrea called her move a "phenomenal out-of-the-box idea."

In an article written by Richard Stine, a 2007 student at Kutztown University, he wrote about the ordinances passed in Hazleton to address illegal immigration.  He made this observation in his senior projects paper. 

Barletta claimed that the influx of illegal immigrants has brought crime, drug trade and gangs to Hazleton which have overwhelmed police budgets. Police Chief Robert Ferdinand also makes the same claim. “What I've seen goes far beyond police reports. The crime that I've seen in Hazleton over the past year is just the tip of the iceberg. I'm very fearful of the trends.

Stine asked this question. 

Did Barletta propose these ordinances only to gain name recognition for a possible run for some higher office, or did he do it to honestly protect the citizens of Hazleton, as he boldly proclaimed he had the right to do?

Well, I believe Attorney General Kathleen Kane just answered Mr. Stine's question 6 years later.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Congressman Lou Barletta On Senate Passage of Immigration Bill

Statement of Rep. Barletta Regarding Senate Passage of Immigration Bill


WASHINGTON – Congressman Lou Barletta, PA-11, today issued the following statement regarding Senate passage of S. 744, the bill that claims to address illegal immigration.  The statement is as follows:

“It has been the worst kept secret in Washington these past few months that the Senate was determined to pass a sweeping immigration bill that in reality isn’t even a Band-Aid on our illegal immigration problem.  We have immigration laws for two main purposes: to protect our national security and to protect American jobs.  This bill violates both of those principles.

“I cannot support any legislation that does not secure our borders first.  While it is true that this means our southern, northern and maritime borders, it also means our interior ports of entry.  I fear that not enough people are talking about our visa system.  If you consider that nearly half of the illegal immigrants currently present arrived on a visa that has since expired, you will realize that if your state is home to an international airport, you effectively live in a border state.  As we have seen too often – and very recently – the holes in our immigration system represent a real and credible threat to the safety of Americans.

“If signed into law, this bill will greatly increase the number of newly-legalized workers in this country, who would then compete for scarce resources and jobs with legal immigrants and the 22 million Americans who woke up this morning unable to find a job.  Granting amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants would be a fiscal drain on the federal budget, the economy and legal American residents.  It will suppress wages, and cost taxpayers about $6.3 trillion in social benefits over the life spans of the new residents – even after tax receipts are realized – according to a study by the Heritage Foundation.

“I will oppose this bill when it reaches the House and anything that remotely resembles amnesty for illegal immigrants.”

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Councilman Jack Mundie Wants To Raise Hazleton's Tax Millage

In his ongoing effort to convince Luzerne County officials to conduct a reassessment of properties Councilman Jack Mundie would cause Hazleton's tax millage to increase to make up for lost revenue according to Director of Assessment Anthony Alu. 

In this Standard Speaker article written by Michael Buffer he reports that Alu stated  "A reassessment this year or next year would likely reduce assessment totals, and that could result in increases in property tax rates "to compensate for" losses in tax revenue for the county, municipalities and school districts".

Another reassessment would cost more than $2 million and take two years to complete, Alu said. A reassessment would require additional staff in the assessor's office, Alu said.

It also would to force the county to spend about $300,000 to pay a company to review three years of sales data and devise a mathematical formula to compute new assessed values, Alu explained.

Mr. Mundie's proposal would do nothing to lower property taxes for Hazleton residents.  In addition Mr. Mundie cites research of selling home prices in his presentation that are questionable.  The housing market has been quiet in Hazleton.  To make a broad comparison on the effect to Hazleton's market a sizeable representative sample of sold homes for such a study would be needed to draw an accurate conclusion.  More than likely the homes he is citing include "distressed sales" resulting from tax sales or foreclosures.  Those figures aren't accurate for comparison.

His position is pure theatrics for the upcoming City Council election.  In the end his proposal would cause the millage in Hazleton to increase.  Hazleton is Third Class City.  As such, by current law, it can only tax properties up to 25 mills without going to court. 

Hazleton reached 25 mills in 1972.  In 1977 it was forced to apply for an extra 5 mills to the Luzerne County Court.  That rate was in effect until 2008 which caused all kinds of financial problems for Hazleton, as well as many other third class cities.

His attack on reassessment can have a negative effect on persons interested in purchasing homes in Hazleton.  If they feel the value is going to be depressed, while an attractive buy, it can also deter sales because they may feel other markets have a much better chance for appreciation.

Frank Sorik has it correct.  Quote- "Frank Sorick, president of the Wilkes-Barre City Taxpayers Association, told council to hold off on another reassessment because he expects the state Legislature to outlaw property taxes."

Mr. Mundie's approach is designed to help himself, not the taxpayers.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Congressmen Barletta, Marino, and Cartwright Advocating For Jobs At Tobyhanna Depot

It is refreshing to see a bipartisan announcement out of Washington.

WASHINGTON – Congressman Lou Barletta, PA-11, has authored a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration advocating Tobyhanna Army Depot as the location of the FAA’s Integrated Control Facility for air traffic control. The new site must be within 150 miles of New York City, but currently, locations outside of New York State are not being considered. Congressmen Tom Marino, PA-10, and Matt Cartwright, PA-17, also signed the letter.

“We would like to express our continued concerns about the exclusion of federal installations in Pennsylvania in the FAA’s request for information,” the Members of Congress wrote to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “Tobyhanna Army Depot (TYAD), for example, is just one facility in Pennsylvania that meets all of the relocation criteria outlined by the FAA except the arbitrary limitation based on state boundaries.”

The Members noted that Tobyhanna, which is “located 81.3 miles from downtown New York City, contains an operational radar and antenna range campus. Additionally, TYAD already has a 240,000 square foot building available with the opportunity for expansion.”

The Pennsylvania Representatives argued that Tobyhanna or other sites would offer better surroundings for workers.

“Many locations in Pennsylvania offer a significantly lower cost-of-living standard for current and future employees,” they wrote.

The three reminded Administrator Huerta that he has said he would be open to sites outside of New York.

“Recently, on February 27, 2013, during a House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation hearing, you testified that you would consider an ICF site outside of the state of New York,” they wrote. “We request that you give equal consideration for the establishment of this facility at the TYAD. Ultimately, we urge the FAA to allow fair competition to determine the best site for the relocation of the ICF without imposing arbitrary limitations based on state boundaries.”  

Barletta, Marino and Cartwright requested information on an ongoing analysis the FAA is conducting, including an opinion survey of current employees, while noting that the issue is also important as the fiscal crisis continues.

“The federal government must eliminate federal overspending,” they wrote. “This begins by making commonsense leasing and procurement decisions regarding federal buildings.”

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Mundie's Placating To The Voters Bites Him

Instead of focusing on leadership Jack Mundie's flaccid thinking draws him to digress into his political toolbox and use 1950's style campaigning during this election cycle.  Mr. Mundie ran on the coat tails of Lou Barletta, Joe Yannuzzi, and Evelyn Graham to win his elections.  Now he finds himself floating in the "Ocean of the Unknown" trying to run his first true solo campaign in a changed political environment.

In a veiled attempt to win voter sentiment Mr. Mundie placed a Resolution on the Hazleton City Council agenda to extend the tax deadline for property owners to pay their taxes to the City and still receive a discount.  The Local Tax Collection Law provides this language regarding discount dates.

Section 10. Discounts; Penalties; Notice.--(a) The rates of discounts and penalties on taxes shall be established by the taxing district. All taxpayers subject to the payment of taxes, assessed by any taxing district, shall be entitled to a discount of at least two per centum from the amount of such tax upon making payment of the whole amount thereof within two months after the date of the tax notice. All taxpayers, who shall fail to make payment of any such taxes charged against them for four months after the date of the tax notice, shall be charged a penalty of up to ten per centum which penalty shall be added.
The Ordinance passed by Hazleton City Council on January 3, 2013 did not specify the mailing date for property tax bills.  Evidently Council left that discretion to the Mayor who, through the City Administrator, would contact Berkheimer regarding the collection of the tax levy.  It was no secret that Hazleton property taxes were skyrocketing with the elimination of a $600,000 payment from Hazleton Creek Properties, the new MMO's(minimum municipal obligation) payments for its pensions, plus the increased debt service.  For months the public was forewarned in article after article.
If Jack Mundie wanted taxpayers to have additional time he had at least six months to express his concern.  Mundie's incessant rivalry has him only thinking of this election.  A true statesman thinks of the next generation.  His demgoguery of this administration serves to detract others from his continued failures as a councilman.  He acts in corners appealing to passions and prejudices rather than to reason and what is right for Hazleton.

Councilman Keith Bast made solid arguments at the March 20th meeting where Mudnie introduced his resolution accodring to this Standard Speaker article.  Bast demonstrated leadership and knowledge of government.

Vice President Keith Bast said that while council should work in the best interest of taxpayers, it must consider costs of borrowing money to cover city expenses if council were to give taxpayers more time to pay bills and qualify for a 2-percent rebate.

Bast contends that Mundie's request is politically motivated.

"We're obligated to taxpayers, but our job isn't not to have people pay taxes," Bast said. "It's a political move to try and get reelected."

Bast also argued that Mundie lobbied for the extension by introducing a resolution. Bast believes council cannot approve a resolution that supersedes regulations set by ordinance.

"I think it was political pandering for votes," Bast said.

Councilman Mundie asked the solicitor for his opinion in this matter after the April 25th vote.

Solicitor Chris Slusser opined "Section 37531 of the Third Class City Code is dispositive of the issue and it requires Council to utilize an Ordinance to “provide for the collection” of these taxes. Therefore the Resolution that passed is of no legal effect." Apparently twelve years on City Council isnt enough time for Mundie to learn the laws of his position.  After all it only took Keith Bast less than one term to be right on the mark.

Mundie's strategy backfired because the foundation on which it was based was flawed fundamentals.  Candidates should know they aren't in control during an election.  Trying to drive the bus because of vested selfishness will not sway the voters.

Louis McHenry Howe stated the following in 1933.  "You can't adopt politics as a profession and remain honest."  Mundie serves as an example.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Hazleton Council Members With No Vision

This picture shows the first tenant the City of Hazleton secured due to a new agreement with the Hazleton Airport hangar's owner.  A quick search of the FAA database shows the Learjet belongs to Eagle Rock Air, Inc. located in Dallas, Texas.  The owner is paying $150.00 per night to park the jet in the hangar.

In 2009, then citizen Jean Mope offered comments to Hazleton City Council on how valuable the airport to our community.  She handed out a study she did of the airport.

In an about face as a councilwoman Ms. Mope wanted to give the airport away according to this article that appeared in the Standard Speaker last year. Presented by Councilwoman Jean Mope on Dec. 5: Selling Hazleton Municipal Airport, which would result in the city having to repay all federal funds invested in the facility. If a sale is cost prohibitive, Mope suggested turning the airport over to either Luzerne County or CAN DO.

When the hangar lease came before Hazleton City Council on March 20, 2013 Councilwoman Mope changed her position once more according to this Standard Speaker article "I don't like getting rushed into making a decision," Mope said. "My thing is why always rush us into these things? Is it more feasible to look at other avenues, like maybe place a new hangar on there and see what it would have cost?"

The hangar is owned by Koro Aviation on land leased from the City of Hazleton.  Former Councilwoman Evelyn Graham's family are principals in Koro Aviation.  Councilman Jack Mundie, in his election mode, made this ridiculous assessment of the agreement. 

Councilman Jack Mundie called the agreement part of Mayor Joseph Yannuzzi's "family and friends program."

Mundie referred to Russell Graham being listed in the agreement as a contact for Koro Aviation. Russell Graham is son of former city Councilwoman Evelyn Graham, who served as part of a council majority a few years ago that included Joseph Yannuzzi.

The key word was "majority".  It takes three.  Jack Mundie was the third person in that majority.  The pharisaicalness of his comments border on overt deception. 

Neither council member is interested in what is right for Hazleton taxpayers.  In their ground game they are playing politics, pure and simple.  Their thirst for control seems to be quenched with their brazenness to treat their fellow council members with disdane and insults.  They fail to offer a vision for the direction of Hazleton with a long term fiscal strategy.  Rather than conduct meaningful dialogue their values allow them to excoriate the oppostion which is usually reserved for political rhetoric.

Both Mope and Mundie do the taxpayers a disservice through their sophistry.   They pretend they are concerned about issues when in reality that is the distraction to trick people from not seeing their real thirst.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Mundie's Flip Flop On Solicitors


At the last Hazleton City Council meeting Councilman Kevin Schadder introduced a new noise ordinance for consideration.  He made a very professional presentation to fellow council members on the need for the new ordinance.  He invited them to bring their amendments if they were so inclinded to offer one.  Schadder was very clear that he was flexible on the ordinance.

Councilman Jack Mundie said while he didn't think Schadder's ordinance was "bad" he questioned the need to introduce a new ordinance since the last ordinance was passed in 2006.  Mundie asked Schadder why he simply didn't introduce amendments to the existing ordinance.

Mundie questioned Solicitor Chris Slusser on the charge for his time reviewing the ordinance.  He stated "Chris was it two hundred, three hundred. four, five, six, seven?".  Attorney Slusser told Mundie that he "didn't have that much time in the ordinance."  Mundie retorted that he was trying to save money.  He didn't like paying expenses especially for "lawyers."

It was Mr. Mundie who insisted a solicitor attend City Council meetings regardless of whether there was a need for the solicitor or not.

In this article written by Sam Galski of the Standard Speaker Councilman Mundie tried to introduce a resolution to mandate Slusser's attendance at council meetings.  Although the resolution was improper and carried no weight even if passed, Mundie chose to seize the opportunity for political purposes.

 Each council meeting generally lasts about 2 hours.  Attorney Slusser's rate is $125.00 per hour.  There are 21 council meetings a year.  Mr. Mundie doesn't mind spending $5,250.00 of taxpayer money to have the solicitor babysit him during council meetings regardless on whether he is needed or not.

Attorney Slusser attended the March 10, 2013 meeting arriving at 4:30 P.M.  The meeting lasted until 9:30P.M.  Attorney Slusser's bill for that meeting was $625.00.  It is amazing Mr. Mundie had the gall to attack Schadder over at most a $125.00 bill.  Taxpayers paid for Slusser to listen to Mundie's nonsense.

Evidently Mr. Mundie wants to chide his fellow member for allegedly costing the taxpayer's money for doing exactly what a council member should do.  Mr. Schadder ran his legislation past Attorney Slusser so its legality was proper before bringing it before Council.  If Mr. Mundie did the same with his resolution it wouldn't have seen the light of day.  But then again that wasn't Mr. Mundie's intention.  He wanted to banter to the public over a fabricated issue taken from Politics 101.

Councilman Mundie didn't mind when the taxpayers paid for his healthcare for seven years.  I guess his saving money is more important than the taxpayer.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Toohil Targeted With Video

In the last election a video attacking State Representative Tarah Toohil surfaced on in a desperate attempt to discredit her.

Reports are coming out that an investigation into a new video threatening Toohil over a possible vote dealing with marijuana legislation.

The 85-second video being investigated used the slogan of a group of hackers called Anonymous: "We are Anonymous. We are Legion. We do not forgive, we do not forget. Expect us."

A woman speaking with an English accent says in a voice over the "legions" were disappointed by Toohil's response to earlier videos that allegedly showed her smoking a bong. The most recent video said she must support decriminalizing marijuana or it would expose her secret, the Inquirer reported.

"Everyone has secrets. Please do not give us a reason to expose yours," the voice over said.

Revenge is never a reason to enter a race.  According to this Philadelphia Inquirer article written by Angela Couloumbis from their Harrisburg Bureau former Representative Todd Eachus decided to do just that.

State House Democrats, too, saw an opening. Toohil, after all, had unceremoniously defeated then-Majority Leader Eachus in 2010. Bitter over the loss, Eachus raised money to help Young's campaign, according to three Democrats involved in last year's races. At Eachus' urging, the House Democratic Campaign Committee spent about $100,000, just days before the Nov. 6 election, to air a tough ad - featuring photos of Toohil from the bong video, as well as the camel photo.

The decision to run that ad was controversial, with some Democrats arguing that it crossed the line of political decency - and wasted precious resources on an unwinnable race.

Speculation during that election centered on whether another person who worked for Eachus was actively involved in the behind the scenes efforts to discredit Toohil.  That person is working for a State Representative from Northeast Pennsylvania.

State Police have been interviewing friends as well as other House members over any role Rep. Nick Miccarelli (R., Delaware), former boyfriend of Toohil, may have played.  To date no charges have been filed against Miccareli.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Hazleton's Landlord Inspection Ordinance

Councilman Jack Mundie has voted more than once against an ordinance requiring inspection of rental properties.  His latest "NO" vote came on February 6, 2013.

In today's Standard Speaker article written by Sam Galski he questions the mangerial ability of Chief Frank DeAndrea to oversee the work of the Code Department of the City of Hazleton.  Someone should be questioning Mr. Mundie's "NO" vote in light of the following serious matters involving the health and saftety of the citizens of Hazleton.

In 2011 a sleeping toddler was injured when a plaster ceiling fell on him in an apartment building that was evenutally condemned.   The details contained in this article written by Standard Speaker reporter Kent Jackson.

A plaster ceiling collapsed on a 2-year-old Hazleton boy while he slept Friday morning in an apartment building that authorities later condemned.

Medics placed Zaire Johnson in a neck collar before taking him to Hazleton General Hospital, the boy's father said.

Daniel Johnson, his father, said he came home from cashing a paycheck before 10 a.m. and saw part of the ceiling on Zaire, who slept in a small bed in their first-floor apartment at 417 W. Broad St.
"I started freaking," he said.

The boy's mother woke and telephoned for help.

Hazleton Deputy Fire Chief Brian Mandak said the boy appeared to be bruised, but more startled than hurt.

A plaster ceiling, a drop ceiling and its grid fell in most of the boy's bedroom, and some of the pieces fell on him.

Mandak said the building had other problems: there were no smoke detectors or heat. Tenants used an oven to keep warm, Mandak said.

In January, 2012 Amanda Christman wrote this article about an apartment building that was condemned by City Health Inspector Mark Thompson for numerous violations.

Hazleton officials condemned an apartment building this afternoon after finding health and code violations inside.

A man and a woman occupied the building at 528-530 W. Seventh St., and were told they could no longer live there.

City Health Inspector Mark Thompson said the building has no electricity or heat. Because there was no heat, water pipes inside burst. The occupants ran extension cords through the walls to a neighboring dwelling to run two space heaters, Thompson said.

The owner of this building located on East Broad Street in Hazleton ran out of time to make repairs on his condemned, burned out building according to this article written by Amanda Christman.


A Hazleton bar with apartments was condemened on Sunday March 24, 2013 by City Code Enforcement Officer Rich Wech along with Deputy Fire Chief Brian Mandak.  Amanda Christman of the Standard Speaker covered this story which further illustrates the need for inspections.

The problems inside the building at Third and Alter streets were discovered after Hazleton firefighters received a call from one of the tenants Saturday night asking what the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are.

Based on that call, Deputy Fire Chief Brian Mandak said firefighters went to the home around 9:55 p.m. for the possibility of a carbon monoxide problem and found a malfunctioning coal furnace and an odor of sulfur at the front door. Mandak said with the front door wide open, ventilating some of the CO outside, firefighters found 26 parts per million of CO.

They also found 48 ppm at the top of the basement steps and over 110 ppm in the basement, where 25 ppm is what OSHA states is the "time weighed average" for an eight hour day, Mandak said.

In addition to the malfunctioning boiler, he said, the basement was cluttered with ashes and combustible items posing a fire and health hazard.

Back in 2009 Mundie tried to stake the claim that he is a "watchdog" on Hazleton City Council claiming he's always voted what is best for the residents of the city. 

 "I've always been a watch dog," Mundie said. "I have agreed with the mayor on issues and I have disagreed with the mayor on issues. But I've always voted the way I thought was best for Hazleton."

The voters should question whether Jack Mundie lives up to that claim.  Who is watching Jack Mundie?  After all he is the government he claims to be watching.   It like the fox watching the hen house.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Jack Mundie Ignores The Public During Council Meetings

This picture was taken at the last Hazleton City Council meeting.  Hazleton City Council meetings are the opportunity for council to conduct its business and listen to complaints from the public.  Evidently Jack Mundie doesn't feel either is important enough nor part of his duty as a councilman.

This incident isn't the first time that Mr. Mundie ignored matters at hand during a City Council meeting.  Reporter Sam Galski filed this report February 25, 2012. 

More recently, Ammon sat in the audience at a city council meeting and was observed by some exchanging text messages with Mundie as the councilman, from council's table at the front of the room, inquired about Shoepe's standing on the authority board.

Take a look at this slide. 

From 2004-2008 expenses exceeded revenue by almost $1 million dollars.  Mr. Mundie is the only current council member who held office during that period.  If he paid attention he could have prevented this problem, or at least corrected it. Instead he sat idly by until while the debt mushroomed to the point it was necessary for the City to borrow $5.6 million dollars to correct the deficit spending as reported May 25, 2011 in the Hazleton Standard Speaker. 

Some have to wonder did Mr. Mundie bury his head in the sand while taxpayers suffered from the additonal financial burden.  Obviously Mr. Mundie has no solutions.

As a result of Mayor Yannuzzi's $5.6 million dollard borrowing plan it was unnecessary for the City to take out a tax anticipation note in 2013 saving the City about $30,000 in interest and borrowing costs as outlined by Acting City Administrator Steve Hahn in this Standard Speaker article.  It should be noted that Councilman Jack Mundie voted "NO" on the financing deal. 

Some taxpayers are left asking this question of Mr. Mundie-