The hard truth is that our “experts” aren’t all that expert.
Too many Northeastern Pennsylvania professionals are political animals, partisan players rather than cutting-edge pros capable of getting the job done. When it comes to decreasing the number of teenage suicides in our community too many of our “professionals” lack real expertise.
Political posturing ruled the night last night at the public “forum” to address the tragic loss of four teenagers to suicide in a week. I don’t doubt the panel members’ intentions. I challenge their ability to solve our problems. They’re just not up to the job.
But, what do you expect in a community where public service jobs in school districts sometimes go unadvertised, where applications are not taken and where political cronies get hired without an interview?
Pittston Area School District has been one of the region’s stellar offenders. So has Luzerne County government. Both have contributed to the increase of federal convicts snared in an ongoing criminal investigation into the destruction of the public trust.
Children are not fools. They watch. They develop the bad habits of poor role models. And sometimes they give up and choose death over continuing despair. A stacked deck among insiders – adults and children – makes it abundantly clear that equal opportunity does not exist, that hope fairness does not exist for them, that no matter how hard they try they will never get ahead – now or ever.
Last night’s meeting produced a dull panel of the same old faces – people who have ingratiated themselves to a rigged system that takes care of its own and, distasteful as it is to say, eats its young.
Never forget the “Kids for Cash” for-profit business that sold children – including some from Pittston Area – into penal slavery for money and put former Luzerne County President Judge Mark Ciavarella behind bars for 28 years.
Never forget former Pittston Area Superintendant Ross Scarantino who wielded political power like the wild outlaw he was, a “well-respected” man who ran amok until prosecutors caught him and he admitted that he was a gangster public servant who only served himself and his friends.
The children saw this happen. They struggled and watched their parents struggle. They lost and lost again. Then they gave up.
Last night our “experts” offered a task force to the living. The panel’s privileged lives have been one big task force designed to benefit themselves and people like them. They preen and posture and provide shallow consolation while most of the people they supposedly serve continue to lose.
You lose if you’re not politically or economically connected. You lose if you don’t have a patronage hook. You lose if you’re not strong enough or smart enough or crooked enough to grab some spoils for you and yours.
That includes the kids. Kids are part of the hierarchy. Some children simply get treated better because of who they are and who they know. Other kids stumble, fall and some times die as a result.
County drug and alcohol boss Carmen Ambrosino, a darling of the political in-crowd, last night made the most superficial statements. The children are our future, he said, as his pinkie ring shined in the overhead lights of the huge school auditorium, where working-class people sat stunned with despair. Ambrosino, rippping off the words of a famous civil rights activist, said he was sick and tired of being sick and tired. After 40 years of repeating himself, he still needed written notes to convey his tired message.
The rumbling in the audience told me that parents and children saw right through this ruse. That’s when some people started to leave. They had heard it all before. They came for help and got blinded by an insider’s pinkie ring.
The new school superintendent seemed dazed. Young District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis looked overwhelmed. And four women from Children’s Services sat quietly nearby while another woman from the Victim s Resources Center also sat in silence.
Public service is supposed to be a privilege – not for the privileged.
We are a seriously dysfunctional community.
Yesterday on the air I described our situation to a professor of psychiatry at Columbia Medial School who heads up a free and successful program designed to help communities address teen suicide and depression. I told him about our recent suicides and the massive placement of local public officials in federal prison for public corruption.
The psychiatrist responded in soft tones, saying that we sound like a serious and strange place. I told him that children and adults alike don’t know who to trust. That poses a concern, he said.
We need a new panel of real experts. .
Politicians helping themselves at our expense has grown far too costly.