Category: Northeast PA

Time for a bit of Northeastern Pennsylvania news.

Nearly a year ago, I criticized the proposed Hazleton cargo airport. An airport backed by corrupt insiders, some of the same people who setup a crooked Luzerne country juvenile facility arrangement. This proposed cargo airport was going to revitalize the area, never mind the fact that no major shipping company signed on to be a tenant.

Fast forward a year later, and there has been a ton of news related to the cargo airport.

Attorney Robert Powell sold his interests in the cargo airport company and the juvenile detention company.

One of the corrupt judges who pushed the juvenile center, Mark A. Ciavarella Jr, admitted to handling cases improperly.

Now both judge Ciavarella and judge Michael T. Conahan are being investigated by the FBI for their relationship with attorney Robert Powell.

What does this mean for the cargo airport? Time will tell, but the state has already recommended that the developers should actually find tenants, before going forward. What a brilliant idea!

Bravo to the Citizen’s voice for having the guts to actually investigate and publish this story. If you live in Northeastern PA, I would strongly urge you to subscribe to the Citizen’s voice. The Times Leader would never publish such a story.

Quite ironically, one of the corrupt country commissioners who passed the juvenile deal still says its a good idea. Greg Skrepenak has no regrets about approving the 20 year 58 million dollar lease to his cronies. Grep Skrepenak recently awarded one of his cronies a million dollar no bid construction contract.

I blame the voters of Luzerne country for most of this mess. First off, how could anyone with a semi-functioning brain vote for Greg Skrepenak? He has ZERO qualifications to run a large county government. Secondly, when voters were given the change the restructure country government with a charter government, they voted NO.

When the dust finally settles on all these scandals, I wouldn’t be shocked to see some of the same idiots obtain office again.

Ed Rendell, the second term governor of Pennsylvania is at it again trying to gouge the citizens of Pennsylvania. You might remember his attempts to sell off the turnpike earlier this year. The sale of the turnpike is still on the table, but now Rendell is trying to turn I-80 in to the turnpike.


Apparently this was passed in July, but its caught most Pennsylvanians like me off guard. Any state politician who voted for Act 44 should be thrown out of office. Turning I-80 in to a toll road will be devastating to the economy of Northern PA. The measure was done ZERO study and NO input from the citizens of Pennsylvania.

There is simply no valid reason for creating new toll roads in Pennsylvania. Instead of expanding the realm of state government, maybe Rendell should try cost cutting for once in his life? Other states have more roads, maintained in better condition, with less money. If Rendell insists on creating a toll road, why not make the Schuylkill expressway a toll road? Especially considering that the main motivator behind this bill is to fund SEPTA. Why not have tolls to fund SEPTA, paid by people who might actually be able to use SEPTA?

Stealing money and killing the economy of central and northern PA to fund Philadelphia’s ineptly run mass transit system makes absolutely NO SENSE.

fedex dc10Whenever I’m asked to describe the political landscape of Northeastern Pennsylvania, I tell people to think of Turkmenistan. Think of a place where political corruption is so common, that its accepted by the people as the norm.

Local and County politicians are usually corrupt, and almost always incompetent. The judicial branch is not immune either, and sometimes judges work in partnership with the corrupt county politicians. The classic example is where a company built a private juvenile detention facility under no contract with the government. A corrupt judge ruled that the existing county run facility was unlivable, and surprise, they had a brand new private facility ready for the county to sign a long term contract. The county pays more per person on juvenile delinquents, than it costs to get a suite at the Waldorf.

Now some may ask, where is the media in this situation? Shouldn’t the media act as a watchdog? Northeastern Pennsylvania has one of the highest per capita newspaper readership rates in the county. Simply put, there are a lot of old people, and old people tend to read the newspaper. The Wilkes-Barre area is dominated by a paper called the “Times Leader,” which is run by a political hack named Richard Conner. Need some proof? Conner’s editorial on Sunday commended president Bush for showing “leadership and loyalty” by commuting Scooter Libby’s sentence. The local media, is very selective about what they report. They will put on a big show, and go really hard on some people, while often protecting others.

The state of Pennsylvania recently had a budget fiasco, which resulted in the shutdown of non-essential government services for a day, thanks to a political hack on the democratic side, Edward Rendell. When the budget was passed in Harrisburg it included money to “study” a proposed cargo airport in Hazleton. Some of the same corrupt players who brought you the juvenile detention center, are now pushing this cargo airport.

As a pilot, I love it when new airports are built, because it doesn’t happen that often. The number of airports in this country is dropping dramatically. However; in the case of the Hazleton cargo airport, I cannot approve of such a miscarriage of government.

The strategy for the cargo airport is taken right from the Field of Dreams play book. “If you build it, they will come.” The idea is that because of operating expenses and congestion outside the NYC metro area, we can use a boatload of government funds to build an airport for cargo planes setup by private developers, with no experience. Magically, after spending a billion+ dollars in public funds, with no major contracts before ground breaking, 747’s are going to start landing in Hazleton, bringing thousands of crappy low wage jobs to work the warehouses and move the cargo.

The cargo airport is simply a pipe dream. The developers don’t have any major carrier under contract, and the numbers floating around for the potential economic benefits are simply ludicrous. I don’t know how this story will end, but given the track record for Northeastern Pennsylvania state and county government, chances are that I will have a vacant 12,000ft runway to land on five years from now.

Even though I haven’t lived in the Wilkes Barre area for almost a decade, I still keep a close eye on news and developments in the area. My first real “computer job” was working for an ISP startup exactly a decade ago this month. I enjoy keeping tabs on the various tech businesses in the area. There are a lot more around today then a decade ago.

iGourmet

iGourmet is a firm that was based in NY State, and moved to Pittston, PA because of the area’s cost and warehousing advantages. Its a one-stop shopping site for high end foods and gifts. Think corporate gift baskets. I actually managed to try some cheeses from iGourmet over Christmas, and I can definitely vouch for their quality.

The website of iGourmet is done in the standard amazon.com clone style, which is a good choice. Its a style that most users already associate with safe online transactions.

Pepperjam

Pepperjam is a search engine “optimization” company. You can pay a company like Pepperjam to increase your company’s stature in search engines. SEO’s have a lot of dubious practices in general, but I can’t comment specifically on Pepperjam. Pepperjam has a few other ventures as well, including affiliate marketing and a poorly done comparison shopping site, which doesn’t appear to be online at this time.

The Pepperjam website is a textbook example of bad design, beginning with the focus on the CEO of Pepperjam. The CEO is plastered all over the website in both image and video. The website reminds me of the personal injury lawyer billboards plastered all over the Wyoming Valley with closeups on the Lawyer’s ugly mugs.

Not only do we get a huge banner of the CEO, but we also get a really annoying video too. It simply boggles my mind how a company can think that having their CEO plastered all over the main page of their website is going to lead to success. I can’t think of one major tech company where their CEO or founder is prominently displayed on the front page.
sergey brin
“Hi this is Google.com, I’m Sergey Brin.” “Thank you for visiting google.com” “Google.com is the #1 place to search the Internet.”

Solid Cactus


Solid Cactus is a company that does custom e-commerce storefronts. Thankfully, they don’t have any of their management team plastered on the main page.

Solid Cactus appears to growing like mad, doubling from 32 -> 75 employees over the past year. While I don’t know what their sustainable competitive advantage is over other storefront providers, they are certainly in a growing market. Solid Cactus has a new product called “Feed Perfect” for submitting items to comparison shopping websites.

The Solid Cactus website isn’t too bad. I would definitely remove the senseless use of flash, take another look at other color possibilities. The solid cactus website also has an employee mugshot page, but it is not placed in the main page, and its done in a tasteful and equitable manner.

Burst.net


Burst.net is a colocation provider located in Scranton Pennsylvania, that has been around for a few years now. As a customer, I can’t say I’ve been very pleased with the design of their data center. I’ve had major power and network outages. On the plus side, there hasn’t been a major incident in a few months. (fingers crossed.)

Burst.net’s website is typical for a colo of its size, and it could definitely use a face lift. Burst.net, along with Pepperjam, prominently highlight their listing in the INC 500. No offense to either organization, but the INC 500 is a joke.

About two weeks after my trip to the Huber Breaker, the lead article in the Times Leader(Northeastern PA Paper) was about the history and future of the breaker.

The Huber breaker was considered the fastest anthracite processing plant in the nation, processing 1,000 tons of coal per hour in 1939, according to Coal Age Magazine.

Unless a viable plan is proposed, it looks like another piece of engineering history will become a victim of the wrecking ball.

ASHLEY – Plans to transform the Huber Breaker into an anthracite history museum will go on the scrap heap if its owner accepts an offer to dismantle the mammoth structure to recycle its steel.

No. 1 Contracting Corp. has given a county agency seeking to preserve the vacant structure until Dec. 7 to sweeten its offer for the 68-year-old coal-processing plant, touted as the centerpiece of a proposed $9 million museum and park complex.