Diamonds to all those commemorated on Memorial Day, the brave people who gave their lives in military service to this country, and to all those who took the time to remember that’s what the holiday is about, through parades, ceremonies, or cemetery visits with flowers or flags. This space was dedicated to the issue on Memorial Day proper, but the need to remember cannot be overstated. Use it as an extended weekend, enjoy family gatherings either to mark the start of summer or to celebrate a graduation, enjoy it anyway you can. But never forget.
Coal to Luzerne County Councilman Harry Haas for suggesting a $5 refund to taxpayers in owner-occupied buildings (homesteads). To be clear, Haas routinely comes across as thoughtful and pragmatic, and his reasoning is not without some merit: He argues giving home owners a property tax break, however small, signals the county’s desire to “wean ourselves off property taxes.” But he wants the money to come from a new $5 vehicle registration fee explicitly created to take advantage of a state fund match to help with a backlog of needed infrastructure repairs — a move cautiously endorsed in this space May 3 with the caveat it be a one-year fee unless the state match continues. The fee was debated by council with public input, and the majority voted to implement it only as long as there is a state match. Haas voted against it. He needs to let this one go and move on.
Diamonds to Abhinav Palle for his performance in the Scripps National Spelling Bee this week. True, the Clarks Summit 13-year-old representing our region did not make it to the finals, but it is an incredibly tense and difficult competition that has expanded in recent years, making it even tougher to win, and he acquitted himself well and with poise. It is important to acknowledge the regional competitors in the many non-sports championships, as they often do quite well in things like speech and debate, mock trial, National History Day and many other events. Full disclosure: Times Leader has proudly helped sponsor this event, holding the regional spelling bee. A diamond within this diamond to The Medicine Shoppe pharmacy for helping sponsor Palle’s trip to Washington, D.C.
Coal to the long litany of property owners who let delinquent taxes pile so high the sites land on a county back-tax auction list. As outlined in several stories by Jennifer Learn Andes this week, the amounts owed can be striking, the reasons varied. It may be understandable that six properties owned by former county controller Stephen Flood are in arrears, the self-styled corruption-buster sadly suffered a stroke in 2oo7 and died in 2011. It’s easy to see how his health problems would complicate management of an estate portfolio. But some of the high-ticket, back-tax sales look more like people trying to game the system, or wanna-be developers biting off more than they can chew when buying properties. The cash-strapped county can ill afford either.