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Damn Scranton, Back at It Again with the Questionable Taxes!

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As perilously as a sorority girl relying on iced coffee to keep her life together on a Monday morning, the city of Scranton is calculating nefarious taxes on just about any thing and any one they can to safeguard its seemingly incompetent leadership.

Scranton’s latest target: John Basalyga. The entrepreneur was billed earlier this month an overwhelming $254,920.80 for questionable taxes on a parking garage he owns in downtown Scranton. (And here I was pissed off about my Comcast bill. I’m definitely counting my blessings now.)

Anyways, here’s what we know:

  1. Basalyga bought a parking garage in September 2016.

  2. The garage was a tax-exempt property when it was purchased.

  3. The Lackawanna County tax assessor’s office admittedly allowed the privately owned parking garage to remain tax-exempt since 2017.

  4. When a Scranton resident complained at a city council meeting earlier this month about the garage remaining tax-exempt, the tax assessor’s office decided to change the garage’s classification from exempt to taxable.

  5. Even though the garage was just changed from a tax-exempt property to a taxable property less than two weeks ago, a bill for 2017 and 2018 was sent, including late fees, so high that it could afford to buy all 402 Scranton High Class of 2018 graduates three pairs of Yeezys and still have money left over.

Now that sounds like a foolishly large amount of taxes for less than a year and a half — unless the city knows something about the property that no-one else knows, like Pablo Escobar stashing cocaine between layers of bricks in the garage and giving the property assessment an immoderate value. I could understand that. But without a shit-ton of cocaine from a notorious Colombian drug lord, I just don’t get it. Do you?

Better than the Weekend called the deputy director of assessments for Lackawanna County directly — his name is John Foley — seeking answers in hopes of understanding why the county is collecting taxes on a property for dates before the property became taxable. Foley angrily refused to comment on the matter. However, when I called pretending to be a student at Lackawanna College working on a paper for my summer class, I uncovered a more candid response from the woman who answered the phone. She claimed the taxes were billed due to an oversight and identified it as the tax assessor office’s fault.

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It gets worse. Apparently, the Lackawanna County tax assessor’s office has a history with oversights. Better than the Weekend exclusively spoke with a woman whose property was carelessly sold in a sheriff’s sale due to an oversight — even though she paid her taxes.

Jamie Constantine, who owns The Velvet Elvis vintage shop in Scranton, also co-owns Spring Hills Farm in Dalton. She says she was taken aback when a man approached her property a few years ago claiming he needed access to the land because he just purchased it from a sheriff’s sale. It turned out the Lackawanna County assessor’s office sold a portion of the land because of an oversight in filing their paid taxes.

“It cost more than $5,000 in legal fees to get it taken care of even though we were paying our taxes the entire time,” Constantine said.

That’s hard-earned money the owners of Spring Hills Farm never saw again.

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That right there is proof Scranton’s government retains the kind of self-sabotage frat boys usually grow out of. However, unlike light beer and cheap handles of vodka, the power that comes from being an elected official is an intoxicating feeling these Peter Pans in positions of power can’t seem to detach from as the years pass by, their hairlines recede and problems grow bigger and bigger.

In a report by Eyewitness News, Foley said his office decided to “roll the dice” when sending Basalyga a bill for nearly $255k. Is it just me, or should someone in that kind of position speak more assuredly on behalf of sending a bill for the price of a small yacht and not like someone who just had to sign himself out of Mohegan Sun?

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If the tax assessor’s office decided to change the tax classification of John Basalyga’s garage moving forward, that’s fine. Scranton’s financial state is in undeniable peril. No property should be exempt from taxes right now. Yet, somehow, an astonishing 33 percent of the properties in Scranton are exempt from paying taxes, largely placing the burden on homeowners struggling to keep a roof over their head. No city should have one-third of its property exempt from taxes.

Whoever allowed that to happen deserves diarrhea so messy that they have to take a shower after. Imagine how much it would help if the mayor grew a backbone and pushed for every property to be taxable for just the next decade. It seems, however, the mayor wants to be in office so he can cut ribbons and practice his Rosetta Stone on the Bar Pazzo menu.

If you’re a church, think about this: What would Jesus do? Would he not pay taxes if it meant families would struggle to keep their home? I don’t speak for the divine daddy J, but I doubt it.

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As for The University of Scranton, know this: They keep expanding and buying properties downtown that takes tax money away from the city and likely cause taxes to spike for hardworking families who spend their entire lives here, unlike the students. When the university bought a building on Courthouse Square in 2012, the city lost out on the taxes it provided. The previous owner of that building paid $15,590 in school taxes alone. Just that property’s taxes could help buy a lot of supplies for students that underpaid teachers are left responsible to cover. According to their website, The University of Scranton’s 2016-2017 school year revenue was more than $224 million while the city of Scranton’s revenue was less than half of that. If the university is raking in a quarter of a billion dollars in a single school year, and Scranton is struggling, they could manage to allocate some of that to pay taxes for a few years to help the city out.

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Perhaps this is the biggest question: If 33 percent of properties in Scranton aren’t being taxed, why is the city attacking John Basalyga and his parking garage? Basalyga is one of, if not the, biggest investors in Scranton right now. He invested millions into saving the mall and transforming it into a marketplace. Basalyga has a vision for this city and is actually taking action to try to build it up. What message does this send someone interested in bringing a business here — that Scranton grasps at straws when it needs money and attacks people they think can foot a bill? Of all the property owners you could attack, you decide to go after one of the few people who would invest large sums of money into saving the city? That’s an abuse of power. That’s like slapping your wife across the face and then expecting her to make you dinner and iron your clothes for the next workday.  Or, maybe it’s just like Scranton politics.

Perhaps a positive takeaway here is that people are being heard at city council meetings. Hopefully people will go and encourage Scranton to roll the dice in the right direction and ask for John Foley’s resignation. His leadership is clearly ineffective. His office’s oversights are costing the city seemingly due taxes and residents legal fees to prove they paid taxes. It would be great if people would encourage council to not use taxpayer money to fight Basalyga’s likely appeal and put more effort into noticeably slimming the percentage of tax-exempt properties in the Electric City.

And before Scranton politicians and tax collectors fall asleep at night, which I don’t know how many of them (not all) do with a clear conscience, they should ask themselves this: What would Michael Scott have to say? Like Jesus, I don’t speak for Michael Scott, but I imagine he’d probably say something like:

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20 Questions with NFL QB Matt McGloin

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Photo Courtesy Matt McGloin Charity Golf Tournament

Matt McGloin is a hero in his hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania — and not just because he went on to become a starting quarterback for Penn State who made it to the NFL. The Kansas City Chiefs QB isn’t forgetting his roots. McGloin is using his platform to raise money with an annual charity event focused on improving the lives of people in need throughout Northeastern PA, a region that could greatly benefit from the influence of an idol beyond the legendary Michael Scott and sea of The Office GIF’s circulating the internet.

The third annual Matt McGloin Charity Golf Tournament will tee off Sunday, July 16.  Better than the Weekend played a game of 20 Questions with the QB before the event.

What inspired you to launch this event? My father was president of Lackawanna Little League for a long time. Him and my mom were always raising money for the little league. I grew up watching them help raise money and help out in any way they could. I always knew I’d do something like that, too. And Scranton is where I grew up. The area is important to me. I want to help make the community stronger.

Can people still register? Yes. Absolutely. They can visit the Facebook page or call 570-604-3315.

How much money has your charity raised so far? Almost $40,000.

When you’re not in season, what do you miss most about the city of Scranton? The food.

Who has the best pizza in Scranton? Maroni’s.

Who has the best wings in Scranton? Rep’s.

Where’s your favorite place to hang out in Scranton? At home with family and friends.

A Scranton coach was accused recently of bullying his players, igniting a debate of how tough a coach should be on a student athlete. What coaching style did you experience as a student and how did it impact you? I think what it comes down to as a coach, and I can say this because as a quarterback you’re somewhat a coach on the field, there’s a different way to talk to everybody. As a coach, you need to understand that. Not everybody has the same attitude. Not everybody has the same personality. You may be able to yell at one guy and it may help him get the job done after you yell at him but the other guy may not respond in the right way to that. You have to know how to talk to them to get the best out of them. It’s a coaches responsibility to take the time to learn about each and every one of the players and how they respond to coaching. At the end of the day, we’re all there to win.

What’s the best advice you ever got? My mom always told me to have no regrets. That would be the best advice I ever got.

What advice would you give your 18-year-old self? I’d tell myself there’s gonna be good days and there’s gonna be bad days, but everything is gonna be alright and I’m gonna get through it.

Photo Courtest Matt McGloin Charity Golf Tournament

What advice would you give student athletes who dream of going pro? You have to make sacrifices. You gotta get your practice in. Maybe you might not be able to go to the beach for a week. Maybe you can only go for two days. But making sacrifices is something you need to know and be willing to accept.

If you weren’t playing football, what would you be doing? Well, I have a degree in broadcast journalism. I think I’d like to be a sports analyst. Sports in general have always been a big part of my life. Growing up, I went baseball, football, basketball, right in a row. Non-stop.

Photo Courtesy Matt McGloin Charity Golf Tournament

What’s something people might be surprised to know about you? I’m pretty low-key. When I get some free time, I enjoy it. I like to sit on the couch and watch movies and take my dog for walks.

Liquor or beer? Beer. Anything Sam Adams.

What’s something every guy should try at least once in his life? Travel the world.

Football players have been under a lot of scrutiny by taking a knee. Reactions ranged from support to open contempt from President Trump and the NFL ultimately banning the act of protest. Do you support the right to take the knee or do you stand with the NFL’s decision?  I stand for the National Anthem. I’ve never taken a knee and I never would take a knee. Personally, I don’t think politics should be involved in sports. I have a job to do. I’m part of the Kansas City Chiefs. I will do what I’m told to do. That’s what I believe in.

McGloin was named the most outstanding walk-on player in the country in 2012. | Photo Courtesy Matt McGloin Charity Golf Tournament

What’s your favorite quote? ‘Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.’

How has the money raised from your charity been used to help people in Northeastern PA? The whole idea of the charity is to keep all of the money donated in Northeastern Pennsylvania. We helped provide medical assistance to a young kid that had cancer. We threw a Christmas brunch and gave gifts to 180 veterans at the Gino Merli Veterans Center. We handed out over 400 turkeys to families around the holidays. We helped provide dental care services for more than 7,000 underprivileged children in the community. And we’re just getting started.

Photo Courtesy Matt McGloin Charity Golf Tournament

Where is the event taking place? Glen Oak Country Club in Clarks Summit.

What helps you get through the week? I want to earn my days off. I work extremely hard during the week in the weight room, conditioning, throwing the football, doing workouts, studying the playbook, stuff like that, so I can feel like I earned my time off on Saturday and Sunday. There’s something about that sense of satisfaction from knowing you had a great lift this week or a great throwing session and feeling like you worked really hard during the week.

For more information on the golf tournament, click right here and head over to the official Facebook page

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‘I served in the Armed Forces, stop assuming we all have PTSD’

Earl Granville

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My name is Earl. I’m a retired solider of the U.S. Army. I lost my leg in June 2008 from a roadside bomb while leaving a site to build a school in a village in Afghanistan. Now please stop assuming I have PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder).

When it comes to our Armed Forces, society assumes we all have PTSD. Once, an organization asked if I wanted to go on a hunting trip. The person on the other line said: “We can help you with your PTSD.” I then asked: “What makes you automatically assume I have PTSD?”

There was some awkward silence.

Needless to say, I didn’t go on that hunting trip. Hunting was never really my thing anyway.

Now do I acknowledge that PTSD is a real problem that affects many of our Armed Forces? Absolutely. However, part of raising awareness around post-traumatic stress disorder is helping people realize that it’s not just a military issue. I truly am humbled the way society looks after our Armed Forces now compared to 40 years ago. I just wish people would stop putting a blanket over us and assume we’re all the same. PTSD is obviously real, but anybody can struggle with thoughts of past experiences, not just our Armed Forces community.

There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about the day I lost my leg. I remember gaining consciousness after being knocked out only momentarily. I remember two MEDEVAC choppers coming — one to carry me and an Afghan governor and another to carry the remains of my comrades SPC Derek Holland and MAJ Scott Hagerty. I remember thinking my life was going to end.

Personally, I stopped letting it control my life.

I stopped labeling myself as a victim and looked for a new purpose after the uniform came off. I started challenging my amputation with more and more goals I’d make for myself, even some that were included in honor of Derek, Scott, and my late twin brother, Army SSG Joe Granville, who took his own life in 2010. It started to take my mind off of the adversities that happened in my life, and eventually I started helping those in situations similar to mine and assisting them in reaching their goals.

To my brothers & sisters in arms: All I ask of you is to take off the Dysfunctional Veteran shirt and move forward and continue to be something great. Don’t let the dark days define the rest of your life. Step out of your comfort zone, filter out the bad in your life, and be a part of something that makes a difference again, just like you once did in uniform.

The Armed Forces culture taught us to be a warrior, and some of that training and experience, good or bad, will stick with us for the rest of our lives. Remember, no matter what you experienced, the world doesn’t owe us anything. Put the self-ego away, be prideful of that small, but possibly heavy time in your life, and continue to have that Warrior Spirit and understand if that heavy plate still holds you down, you don’t have to carry it alone. Whether it’s from a professional or a close friend, you know you don’t have to hold it by yourself.

As society, military or not, we should all carry that weight together. We’re human; and as humans we are going to face heavy times in our lives, military or not.

Earl Granville is a nine-year veteran as an infantryman in the Army National Guard, with two combat deployments and one peace keeping. He is retired holding the rank of Staff Sergeant with awards such as Bronze Star, Purple Heart and the Combat Infantryman Badge. He is a graduate of Lackawanna College and working on his undergrad at the University of Scranton. He travels the country as a public speaker discussing healthy ways to battle adversity and continuing to find a purpose after a door closes. Earl is a team member for the military non profits Operation Enduring Warrior and Oscar Mike. Follow his journey on Facebook. 

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20 Questions with Vinny from ‘Jersey Shore Family Vacation’

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Jersey Shore Family Vacation proved to be the best thing to happen to MTV since teen pregnancy. The reality reboot juiced up the ratings for the network with the highest cable TV premiere in six years. Yeah, buddy!

Now, Pauly, Mike, Ronnie, Snooki, Jwoww, Deena and Vinny are filming a second season of the show in Vegas. But first, the keto guido himself, Vinny Guadagnino, played a game of 20 questions with Better than the Weekend.

You were 21 when you first started filming Jersey Shore. Now you’re 30. What would 30-year-old Vinny go back and tell 21-year-old Vinny? Stop wearing all those bedazzled ugly T-Shirts. Ed Hardy. They had to go. I probably wish I would have been on the same diet I’m on now — the Keto diet — back then. And all the times I wish I would have went home back then, I would say that even when it gets tough, you can still get through it.

Was there any hesitation to reunite for Jersey Shore Family VacationThere was no hesitation at all. We’re the ones who manifested it into existence. We were in a group chat and we were saying we should do a show. Then we had our executive producer joining in and ultimately making it happen.

Photo Courtesy MTV

What should every guy try at least once in his life? A threesome.

When you’re smushing… lights on or lights off? Lights on. I’m a visual person.

What do you look for in a girl? I look for chemistry. I like it to be easy. Not in a sleazy way. I just like when we’re connected and on the same page and nothing has to be said and we just know what the other person is thinking.

What are your deal breakers in a relationship? Smoking is pretty bad. But today, it’s so rare to see a girl smoking. When you see a girl smoking it’s like, ‘Oooh, she’s bad. Who hurt you?’

You’re recently single. Are you on any dating apps? I have an old profile on Tinder. Maybe it’s still there, but I’m not on there. There’s a celebrity dating app for celebrities I tried to get on, but they turned me down from joining.

If you were elected president, what is the first thing you’d do? Cut taxes.

You made headlines for schooling President Trump on climate change. What would Trump’s Jersey Shore name be? DJT.

What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you? Maybe that I’m an artist and I draw.

Which MTV show should be rebooted next? Rock N’ Jock. It was on in the 90s and had celebrities play sports against professional athletes.

Was it awkward going into the house with Snooki after being the only roommate who wasn’t invited to her wedding? Me and her are fine. Me and Nicole had a one-night stand in the Jersey Shore house when we were 22 years old — eight years ago. There was never any feelings or a relationship. The awkward part is not knowing how the production will spin our relationship. If I’m sitting next to Nicole, a reality show could spin that clip. That’s what made things awkward with us — not knowing how our interactions would look at the end of the day. That’s where a lot of Nicole’s concerns and reactions came from.

Jersey Shore Family Vacation is renewed for a second season. Since you’re down one roommate with Sammi not returning, which celebrity do you think would make a better roommate — Stormy Daniels or Monica Lewinsky? Stormy Daniels. She’s a porn star.

Photo Courtesy MTV

What’s the best advice you ever received? I read a lot of self-help books. I don’t know if it’s something I read, or something someone actually told me, but I like the saying ‘Not everything in life is an emergency.’ I think we run around and get hung up over things that stress us out more than they should. Sometimes you just need to take a deep breath and realize not everything is an emergency. We’re floating in a rock in outer space in the middle of an infinite universe. Our problems are a lot smaller than we realize and sometimes need to chill the fuck out.

What are you passionate about? Nutrition and health.

What celebrity do you think is overhyped? Cardi B. I will say Cardi B is talented. She’s funny. She has a huge personality. I get why people love her. However, I will say Bodak Yellow was pretty much identical to a Kodak Black song. Without that song she wouldn’t be who she is today. That’s all I’ll say about that.

What celebrity do you think doesn’t get enough credit? Donald Glover. He does standup. He does improv. He’s an actor. He’s a singer. He’s a rapper. He wings Grammys. He wins Emmys. He obviously gets credit because he wins awards, but his name isn’t on the top of everyone’s tongues the way it should be. He goes by two different names — Donald Glover and Childish Gambino — and they’re both talented enough to stand out on their own.

What is one Keto meal I need to try? If you go to the store and you find some smoked salmon, sugar free, almost like lox, take that and you kind of make that your little wrap or burrito. Then you put inside of it some cream cheese, avocado, arugula, and then you wrap up the salmon and have this smoked salmon wrap. Then you dip it in some black truffle oil. It’s amazing.

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What’s next on your career to-do list? Being on a scripted comedy series would be a dream come true. I love making people laugh. Something like Curb Your Enthusiasm or New Girl or It’s Always Sunny.

Are you a weekend warrior or a weekday warrior? I like the middle of the week better than the weekend. A Monday or a Tuesday night, when it’s more industry night or the locals, is much more fun to me than when all the crazy people are out on the weekend. The people who are out during the week all want to be there. It’s easy to be dragged out by your friends because it’s a Friday or Saturday. A Monday party is definitely better than the weekend.

Photo Courtesy MTV

Season 1 of Jersey Shore Family Vacation can be streamed on mtv.com.

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