Contact: Brian Kelly's Campaign
Date: March 20, 2015
****** PRESS RELEASE ******
Three Important Initiatives
to help Wilkes-Barre City
Nothing in life worth having is easy!
Brian Kelly's plan for being Mayor of Wilkes-Barre City is embodied in his recommended actions for a safe city, an affordable city, and a clean city-- as part of WIlkes-Barre's Return to Glory! Kelly has a set of plans and actions defined for all three of the goals needed to achieve a return to glory. All are spelled out on this campaign web site, www.briankellyformayor.com. In November, when Brian announced his intentions to run for Mayor at Keats' Pub in East End, Wilkes-Barre, he outlined a few specifics in each of these categories.
Cynics on the blogs took him on as expected, and they got a real kick out of Kelly suggesting that there may be people who would donate for the good of the City and perhaps even put Wilkes-Barre in their wills. Some of these potential donors may continue to live in the City, and some others may have moved out a long time ago. We know how wonderful the Kirby Family has been to Wilkes-Barre over the years with their donation of Kirby Park and their renovations to the Paramount Theatre, now the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts. Brian's comment to the cynics at the time was and continues to be: "if cynics could think out of the box, they would not be cynics." Brian Kelly thinks out of the box.
Let me tell you about a Meyers High Reunion from about ten years ago. Brian Kelly credits others for the success of the reunion, but right from the start his goal was to make the event as inexpensive as possible and to make it a night to remember. From the first reunion meeting to the design of the first flier, the idea was to ask classmates to take chances on some prizes, to take ads in the program, and to donate as much as they could so that as many Mohawks as possible would be able to attend this 40th reunion. The event was held at the Wyoming Valley Country Club for a cost of $97.00 per person. The per ticket charge for classmates was $40.00. Fifty-seven dollars of the price was handled by the donations of caring classmates.
Better than twice the number of classmates and guests were able to attend this reunion than the prior one. Cynics should know that "When people are asked to help out, they often come through."
There was a huge boat full of shrimp and salmon and other delectable h
ors d�oeuvres along with eight hours of open refreshments, flowers galore, a program the size of a book, old copies of Elmprints, a band, and a DJ for entertainment. Meyers Mohawks classmates came through--big time. When everything was paid, the class sent out a several thousand dollar check to the classmate who had donated the most to partially pay him back for his generosity. There was actually too much donated money to spend. How did this class afford the greatest venue in town at the price of a Fire Hall? First of all they thought they could, and secondly, they planned to succeed. Dreams followed by ideas followed by plans followed by actions is Brian Kelly's definition of leadership. If you think you can't, you are always right. The Meyers committee including the very generous Tappa Kegga Day fraternity thought they could and they put on a time to remember.
Several weeks ago, Brian submitted to the local papers three initiatives that he hoped could be embraced by Wilkes-Barre City even before the change in officials in 2016. Not wanting to give Kelly any edge over other candidates with free space in the newspapers, none of the papers chose to run the essay. It is included here in its entirety with some corrections since it was first submitted.
Three Initiatives to Help Save Wilkes-Barre City
As a citizen of Wilkes-Barre, I believe that our City's return to glory begins with dreams and then its success will flow to ideas, plans and actions. All of this equals leadership. Sometimes it is hard to find a good dream or a good idea to go after. In Wilkes-Barre, we have many opportunities. I have three dreams right now that I would like to share with the citizenry, the current administration and the other candidates for Mayor of our city, as well as those candidates for City Council. The sooner we can get these things or things like this on the drawing board, the sooner our success process begins so that one day soon, Wilkes-Barre can return to its glory days.
I am proposing three new City sponsored citizen-driven initiatives for Wilkes-Barre, PA. Two seem to fit the definition of an authority, while the other may take the form of a committee with a small governing board and lots of members. You may know that my overriding campaign theme is to create safe city, an affordable city, and a clean city. Most of my ideas including those for a safe city are included on my web site, www.briankellyformayor.com. I have made all of these ideas available to the Mayor and all other City candidates without attribution. The notions I am offering today have to do with an affordable city and a clean city in that order. The three initiatives are as follows:
1. Wilkes-Barre City Tax Relief Authority
2. Wilkes-Barre City Home Improvement Authority
3. Wilkes-Barre City Save our Schools Committee
The Tax Relief Authority
The Tax Relief Authority would consist of a twelve member board with a Chair from the membership. The authority would have three teams, the mission of which would be to accept applications and hold hearings about the suitability of providing funds to pay for the City property tax for those residents whose properties are close to foreclosure. An objective would be to have no foreclosures for City Property Tax reasons.
To make this work, a system would need to be developed to collect financial data required to assess individual need without making the task too arduous to gain applications. Each of three teams, using the data and a hearing, would have the ability to make decisions about whether to grant a large subsidy and what the amount should be so that selected property owners could pay their taxes and avoid losing their homes. Swift action would be paramount. We want people to be able to keep their property. However, this is not a public welfare notion and it is not intended to cost the city any expense other than that required for a light coordination role.
A fourth team on this authority would be administrative in nature and fund raising would be their major purpose. A treasurer for the authority would be part of this team, As I have outlined on my web site, Wilkes-Barre citizens on the average are well below the poverty line and taxes are breaking the backs of many in the City and County with as many as 3,000 foreclosures a year.
A great source for quickly funding the Tax Relief Authority would be to ask voluntary donations from Wilkes-Barre residents, and from those who may not live in Wilkes-Barre but who have a spot in their heart for the City. Wilkes-City Workers and retirees, contractors who work for the city, and those who run businesses in the city as well as residents who are doing well in these tough times. This would be a people helping people campaign. Nobody wants taxes increased and so the more voluntary ways we have to raise revenue for good purposes the better off we would be. I would also ask those who have foreclosed on properties in the city in the past to consider a nice donation. Anybody who is inclined should be encouraged to do so and to help make the project a success. We need some extraordinary measures to get out of the hole, and people helping people may tap into the generous spirit of our people and those who have benefited from Wilkes-Barre in the past.
Home Improvement Authority
The next Authority, the Home Improvement Authority would receive a lot of help from the Wilkes-Barre City Inspection team. Instead of people fearing a visit from the Inspectors, an objective for City officials should be that the people would not be able to get enough of them. Fear would be the last emotion. This cannot be done by heavy handed demands on property owners trying to improve their homes. Instead, the expertise of the inspectors, sometimes with a hands-on role could be tapped to make every construction project be done well and at the least cost.
The program would start with an application and then an inspection and a workup on what priorities need to be addressed at what estimated costs to bring the home back up to snuff. I would like to see a team of voluntary inspectors or "helpers," to work with City official inspectors and actually participate in this work. The inspectors could work with local home improvement centers to assure the best discounts for any work financed by this program, and a list of approved contractors would be developed to assure the City and the property owner get a fair shake.
To the extent possible, for unique expert situations, the City inspectors, employees and volunteers would, be commissioned to do certain tasks that would help the program. Perhaps the Wilkes-Barre Career and Technical Center (Vo-Tech) can also help out by lending student workers to help contractors and the home-owner in the necessary building tasks. Obviously, this would help the student learn and there is nothing better than learning delivering productive results at the same time.
Again there would be four teams of three each. Teams one to three would evaluate applications and interview those in need and make approvals and would determine amounts based on how much money is available. The fourth team would be administrative and fund-raising in nature. They would also interview and approve the contractors. I can see some of the major improvement stores operating in our area to donating materials and providing discounts and cash to the program. There is a lot more that needs to be defined as this notion is clearly in the idea phase.
Save Our Schools
The third initiative, Save Our Schools, should be something in which we are all interested. I am referring to our school infrastructure. Recently, with the Governor's visit a month or so ago, to the oldest school in Wilkes-Barre at 105 years old, Wilkes-Barre High�most recently Coughlin High School�the future of our three High Schools is once again in play. Without addressing the situation of how our district leadership could have permitted this situation to get so bad, the worst thing we can do right now is rush a decision. We still do not have all of our citizens' attention to this important matter, and this is very necessary.
I propose an open membership committee for the Save Our Schools initiative with a Chair and a Treasurer of Wilkes-Barre Residents only (for the time being) as Wilkes-Barre City Schools are those in danger of getting ripped down, perhaps all three at once. I would love to see hundreds of members on this committee.
Various Axe Men appear too ready at times to use their only tool, the Axe to cause irreparable damage to the skyline and the infrastructure of our City. Nobody cares about visiting a city in which the biggest building contractor is Plasticville Construction, and whose expertise is in building short-life buildings�to last just enough time that the politicians and officials that authorized it are long gone. Axe men seem to be able to smell out a historical building, and then for their own perverted reasons, they seem to quickly earmark it for demolition. Whether that is fully true or not, it sure seems that way.
I wrote an extensive essay on this subject, that was published in local papers. It is included in its entirety as Chapter 33 of my new book, Wilkes-Barre PA: Return to Glory! The book is available free to download on www.briankellyformayor.com. There are some dreams, ideas, and some potential plans for saving all three high school buildings and never again getting into a situation in which City and/or School District Assets are permitted to get into such a poor state of disrepair. Citizens should not be facing emergencies such as this when we already pay a lot of people a lot of tax money to make sure things go right.
So, that is it. These are three worthwhile initiatives of many that will be necessary to help save Wilkes-Barre and return her to her days of glory. I can assure you as Mayor, these initiatives would be part of my total game plan; and I hope the other candidates�for Council and the Mayor's Office�feel the same if they have the good fortune to become our Mayor or they become part of the Council Team. As noted in this essay, there is nothing that should stop Mayor Leighton and today's Council from beginning these initiatives right now!
So, why wait? Good dreams and ideas that do not tax the budget should not be put off. And, so, I would challenge the current administration to invest the time right away and get all three of these notions well underway before the next Mayor and Council take office
We are all in this together. Write or call or email the Mayor and your Ward Council person and tell them to move on this as soon as possible.
About Brian W. Kelly,:
Brian W. Kelly is a former IBM Senior Systems Engineer and Retired Professor of Business and Information Technology (BIT) at Marywood University in Scranton, PA. He was a candidate for US Congress from PA District 11 in 2010. Kelly is now a candidate running or Mayor in his home town of Wilkes-Barre PA. Brian still manages his own IT business (www.kellyconsulting.com). You can check out his campaign website at (www.briankellyformayor.com).