The restoration of the public trust remains the biggest obstacle to progress in Northeastern Pennsylvania. As far as hurdles to a better future are concerned, this one might be insurmountable.
Neither President Barack Obama nor Vice President Joe Biden ventured anywhere near addressing our toxic political corruption when they grinned their way through flat speeches last Friday at Lackawanna College.
Biden didn’t even seem to realize that he wasn’t at a real “community college,” but at a college in the community – a two year football factory whose benefactors and “leaders” are as mired in political patronage, cronyism and corruption as you can get.
Former state Sen. Bob Mellow, the honorary father of the college and mentor to the former and current college president, is currently in federal prison awaiting trial on new state charges that could lock him away for life.
Other than the organized crime of illegal sports betting, political power among the connected remains the cornerstone industry in Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, Hazleton and all the little one-time coal patch towns in between. As smart as Obama and Biden are presumed to be, they either don’t know or choose to ignore the ongoing attacks that corrupt business and political armies launch against our future.
The Mafia, violent labor unions and crooked congressmen shaped our destiny. In the “good old days,” when the Italians, Irish and Polish openly hated each other and factories offered oppressive jobs that at least paid the bills, we united in our common dislike of foreigners, blacks, “Japs”, hippies and anybody else who didn’t welcome the Blessed Mother as the only acceptable female CEO - as long as she knew her place and didn’t try to sneak into the male-only Lackawanna County Friendly Sons of St. Patrick’s dinner.
For the record, Biden once attended.
Yet, hope reared its ugly head in 2011 when “liberal” congressional candidate Matt Cartwright announced his intent to face off against the conservative Democratic status quo that divided and ruled our lives in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
In a stunning upset, Cartwright toppled a longtime incumbent.
Then, almost overnight, Cartwright turned company man.
In a simple, yet crucial request for his help, we asked Cartwright to stand with us in stripping Mellow’s name from a public park. The Democratic Party warlord is still feared and held in high esteem by many of those he betrayed, people who understood how Mellow controlled politics in the coal fields and beyond for decades. To this day, nobody more than Mellow embodies the spreading poison that defines hard coal country politics.
But Cartwright turned down our simple and noble request. All we wanted was for him to publicly stand with us and say that the restoration of the public trust matters immensely, that removal of the offensive name of a gangster from a park where children play is the right thing to do.
But Cartwright is a hustler lawyer who clearly understands that if he expects to be re-elected he will need cash campaign contributions from the very same powerful business and political “leaders” who backed his opponent and opposed him in the primary, people Cartwright now considers his friends, mind you.
They matter more than us - perhaps an unforgivable sin.
Even Mary might have a tough time swallowing Cartwright’s weak-kneed stunt.
Us vs. them remains the name of the game.
Yet, after more than 30 pillar-of-the-community-model-citizen-elected-and-apppointed-public officials either pleaded guilty or were convicted after federal jury trials, people tell me they are worried about more of the same.
Peter Smith, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, has seemingly abandoned us. OK, maybe future indictments are in the works. But it’s very difficult if not impossible to obtain simple updates when we ask about cases, the task force probe or offer tips for future inquiries.
People tell me that they once again feel lost, forsaken and used, there for the taking by a new generation of thieves and political cartel members. The public trust, rather than coming back to life with a vengeance, is dying a slow death,
Expect multi-millionaire real estate developer and admitted federal felon Rob Mericle to take a VIP seat at the funeral.
Four years have passed since Mericle pleaded guilty to political corruption for his role in the internationally infamous “Kids for Cash” scandal in which Mericle’s county judge friends sold children into slavery for profit.
Federal prosecutors claim they need Mericle to testify against Ray Musto, another allegedly corrupt former state senator who is, of course, charged with political corruption, and argues that he is innocent, wants his day in court but is too old and sick to go to trial.
As hard as it might be to believe, Mericle’s reputation in powerful political and business circles remains golden. Mericle has yet to be sentenced and remains a bigger wheeler and dealer than he was before he got busted.
The message is clear that crime pays and indictment is just the cost of doing business in our rough little part of America. Most of our political gangsters don’t get caught. Those who do,
even with a prison sentence, get canonized by locals who believe that if they stole they stole for us.
Assuming that Mericle one day does get sentenced, don’t be surprised if he asks the Blessed Mother to write a letter to the judge on his behalf.
Will she comply?
As the late legendary local Mafia boss Russell Bufalino once said, “I refuse to answer on the grounds that it might tend to incriminate me.”