Diamonds to everybody involved in staging the annual Wilkes-Barre Fine Arts Fiesta, and to all those who attended despite threatening rain that scudded over the area for the better part of the four-day event. Yes, the Fiesta got plenty of press in these pages, as it always does, but it is hard to overstate the value of this yearly jewel in Luzerne County’s list of crowning achievements. The only real lament is that the show has not expanded more. As fun as the Fiesta is, the notion of vendors, activities and art displays spilling far beyond Public Square — or outgrowing the site completely — is an ever-tantalizing one.
Coal to the large majority of registered voters who opted to stay home during Tuesday’s primary election. There are plenty of excuses, some legitimate. For starters, Pennsylvania’s closed primaries prevents those registered as independents or with any party beyond Democrat and Republican having a voice in the primaries. Then there is the lack of competition in many races making a vote seem moot. But the county overall couldn’t crack 17 percent turnout, and turnout in the 76 municipalities ranged from a depressing low under 11 percent in West Hazleton, to only one place topping 30 percent: Bear Creek Village. There are two fundamentals here: 1) If you don’t vote (and lack a solid reason for abstention), you arguably forfeit the right to complain about the governance you get; 2) If the majority abstain, we become a government of the minority, often people highly motivated because of extreme views. Tyranny never defeats true democracy, but democracy has been known to forfeit the fight.
Diamonds to Luzerne County for taking any steps to make jury duty less onerous. Make no mistake, jury duty is a privilege as well as a requirement, and people who grumble and attempt to shirk it are worthy of some scorn, but the antiquated system clearly wastes a lot of each individual’s time and is overly-ripe for streamlining. Staff writer Jennifer Learn-Andes’ Monday story on changes underway was very welcome news for the roughly 21,000 county residents called to serve each year. The changes are expected to save money for the county and time for prospective jurors. Anyone who has stood in line waiting for forms, filling them out, then idling in the jury room while mysterious judiciary actions unfold out of sight will surely greet even modest changes with applause. The more this ancient system can be updated for the modern world, the better.
Coal to any state politicians salivating at the notion of implementing legalized sports gambling now that the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a 25-year-old law barring all but Nevada from the lucrative market. This is not a criticism of the SCOTUS ruling, or even of legalizing sports gambling in Penn’s Woods. But state legislators have proven too addicted to the promise of gambling revenue, and any move in this new direction should be preceded by lengthy review and public debate.