- Thomas M. Leighton
Leighton defeated former city leader
Tom McGroartyin the Democratic Party primary electionin 2003, partly on a platform to revitalize Wilkes-Barre's downtown sector.
June 9, 2005, Leighton unveiled his 'I believe...' campaign for Wilkes-Barre, which was intended to boost the city's spirits and rid residents of their cyncisim and negativity about the city. Many residents were, and still are, skeptical of the campaign, since it is being paid for with tax dollars. Construction is complete on a planned downtown 14-screen theatre complex and a two-floor Barnes & Noblebookstore. The movie theater opened in July 2006. A Barnes & Noble boookstore opened in early October 2006. A renovation of the landmark Hotel Sterlingis being pursued by CityVest, a nonprofit developer. In March 2006, CityVest purchased a property adjacent to the Hotel Sterling for $325,000, the City had a lien on the property, but the property owner got the cash, the City somehow transferred the lien to CityVest(and then forgave it), and the taxpayers were on the hook for $311,000. New street lights have replaced worn out red lights in the Public Square and in parts of the downtown area. Midtown Village has seen a new club open up, and a Subway restaurant, a Thai restaurant, and The Hardware Bar have significantly widened the popularity of the downtown area. Leighton has been widely praised by many Republicans as well as Democrats for his success in this area considering that renovation of the downtown was something Tom McGroarty was barely able to achieve. Wealthy Republican Gus Genetti, a man whose name is very well-known to city residents, owns the Genetti Hotel in downtown Wilkes-Barre and in a local newspaper article in October 2006 praised Leighton and Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, both Democrats, stating that Rendell and Leighton's policies have led to the "brightest future Wilkes-Barre has seen since the '50s [and] up until this year, we were a college town without a college town." The expansion of parking facilities has already been nearly completed and the expansion of King's College and Wilkes University, both located in the heart of south Wilkes-Barre is anticipated.
Leighton faced near disaster in 2004 and 2006 when the city experienced flooding near the same levels of 1972's
Hurricane Agnes, which destroyed the homes of 20,000 families, yet the city successfully tackled both incidents thanks to what the Army Corps of Engineersdeemed the "modern" quality of the levee systems. The mayor did receive much criticism when local newspapers " Times Leader" and " Citizens' Voice" reported that violent crime has risen 39 percent under Leighton's watch. Ever since, Leighton has taken significant measures to prevent such crime, including, most notably, increasing the size, outreach, and control of the city police.
"Associated Press Report on the "I Believe... " Campaign"
* [http://abclocal.go.com/wpvi/story?section=local&id=3187818 PA Mayor's Promise Less than "Unbelievable" (6/23/2005 Wilkes-Barre, Pa.)]
The Citizens' Voice (local newspaper) report - example of City Council meeting, with quote by Mayor Leighton -
* [http://www.zwire.com/site/index.cfm?newsid=17373858&BRD=2259&PAG=461&dept_id=455154&rfi=8 Sex Offender Ordinance (10/25/2006 Wilkes-Barre, PA)]
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