On and Off The Mountain/Stephanie Grubert

Pope Francis’ visit to America dominated the news last week. The Roman Catholic Pontiff captured the hearts of Catholics and those of other religions in a whirlwind 6 day tour beginning in Puerto Rico and ending Sunday in Philadelphia. He had a different message for each group he addressed, but his bottom line was respect and love each other.

I went to Catholic grade school, high school and college. The pope was an old man living in Rome and someone we were supposed to revere and honor in my early years. Pope Pius was my first pope governing from 1939 to 1958 intervening for peace during World War II. As the oldest of the Baby Boomers I wondered about the Pope’s relevance to me and our country.

Next up was John XXIII 1958 to 1963, my religious forming years into high school. Pope John organized Vatican II and sought to reach out to the faithful with Mass in the vernacular, the language of the people around the world wherever they lived. Pope John issued the 1963 encyclical Pacem in terris (Peace on Earth) on peace and nuclear disarmament and intervened for peace during the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962). The early 60’s was the beginning of my political awareness of the world.

Next up was Pope Paul VI 1963-1978, who was the first pope to travel since 1809 outside Italy to the USA and Australia. He condemned artificial contraception in his encyclical Humanae Vitae.

John Paul I served only 33 days from August 26 to September 28, 1978, adopting the names of his last two predecessors.

John Paul II served for 26 ½ years from 1978 to 2005. John Paul II was the first Polish pope and first non-Italian pope since 1523. He traveled extensively, and the world got to know a pope that was more relevant to our individual countries.

Benedict XVI served for nearly eight years from 2005 to 2013. He too visited New York in 2008, continuing the precedent of John Paul II

Our current pope is simply Francis. He was elected March 13, 2013 at the age of 76 and has been at the helm for 2 years and 201 days. Jorge Mario Bergoglio, S. J. is the first pope to be born outside Europe, Buenos Aries, Argentina in nearly 1300 years and the first from the Americas and the Southern Hemisphere. He is also the first Jesuit priest to be elected by the College of Cardinals.

Francis embraced the people he met on his trip last week and they embraced him. It was truly magical to see the simple man engaged in whatever activity was on the agenda at the moment from addressing the Congress, the people of New York or the World Family Day of 2015. He enjoyed waving to the crowds from his “pope mobile” in all of the cities he visited and gave the Italian Fiat motor company a shot of confidence. Francis does not wear rings to be kissed or royal red booties. He is a man of the people, all people.

I was happy to see the activities from the comfort of home, but I know the excitement of the hundreds of thousands at the events is a once in a lifetime thrill.

Francis has left the Americas and is now back in Rome. His energy and love will be long remembered. Now that New York, Washington and Philadelphia have their security procedures locked in, we can hope to see Francis again one day.

Crestwood Underrepresented

I read with interest the story about Crestwood filing a lawsuit challenging the board representation of the Wilkes Barre Career and Technical Center (WBCTC) in last week’s Eagle. The WBCTC has always been a political patronage opportunity for board members to appoint their relatives and friends to positions. Crestwood representatives have used this perk at least twice, when Bill Thomas and Bill Jones arranged for their wives to be appointed to jobs. The Wilkes Barre representatives with their overwhelming 5 votes have many, many more on the payroll as do all of the other districts.

The story references 2010 Mountaintop census population as a basis in the lawsuit for Crestwood’s right to another representative. Wilkes Barre has 59,879 and 5 representatives, Pittston has 27,837 and 2 representatives, Crestwood has 20,018 and one representative; Nanticoke has 2 representatives and 19,104 population; Hanover has one representative and 15,439 people. Crestwood is seeking one of the Nanticoke seats now that its population exceeds Nanticoke’s.

I found enrollment numbers for each district’s high school, which may or may not include junior high. It was always my understanding that board representation was based on high school enrollments in participating school districts.

Wilkes Barre has 5 representatives for three high schools: Myers 945, GAR 841, and Coughlin 1018 students for a total of 2804.

Nanticoke has 2 representatives and a high school enrollment of 803.

Pittston has 2 representatives and a high school enrollment of 1010.

Hanover has one representative and a HS enrollment of 932

Crestwood has one representative and HS enrollment of 1019.

These figures are probably outdated as Crestwood currently has only 920 High School Students as of September 2015.

Whatever the exact numbers are, dividing the enrollment numbers proportionately would give Wilkes Barre Area no more than 3 representatives and each of the remaining 4 districts two representatives each to come up with the current number of board members at 11.

Articles of Agreement for the WBCTC Committee states that seats are based on US Census populations of the member districts. The population equation works the same way. Wilkes Barre has approximately twice as much population as Pittston. Crestwood, Nanticoke and Hanover have about a third. Three for Wilkes Barre, two each for each of the other districts balances out the numbers.

Crestwood pays $8-$9,000 per student and debt service obligations are based on census numbers. In essence, Crestwood is charged for two seats but only has one.

Crestwood’s lawsuit seeks “a stronger voice on the committee” according to discussion at this month’s Crestwood School Board meeting. Gene Mancini, who will be leaving office at the end of his term in December 2015 has been Crestwood’s representative on the WBCTC Joint Operating Committee (JOC). Norb Dotzel was appointed Alternate and will take the position when Mancini leaves office.

Cost for the Crestwood lawsuit is $15,000 so far, which is a very small percentage of Crestwood’s yearly contributed portion of a million dollars per year. A better lawsuit would have made an argument to reorganize the WBCTC Board and Committee under proportionate census and enrollment numbers, giving 3 seats to Wilkes Barre and 2 seats each to the other four districts for a total of 11. The status quo is unfair to the participating districts.