I was originally going to write my column this week by trying to explain how in the world our tiny towns have recently been living down to the newest business enterprise of manufacturing poison for profit. In just a matter of weeks, at least four meth labs have been exposed with one exploding in a residential neighborhood. Many of us are asking why. The reasons are several but it boils down to one thing. We all need to put down our coffee cups and look in the mirror for a moment. Take a long gaze at that face and remind yourself that it is our responsibility for the mess our neighborhoods are becoming.

Years ago, I wrote about the dangers of apathy. The willingness to do nothing because someone else will pick up the slack. I have repeated that message over the last several years in several ways, but it apparently was not motivating enough because we have allowed our towns to continue to slide. It is sad and heartbreaking to watch the heritage, ethics and coal miner pride with which I was reared descend into complacency and madness.

We voted on Tuesday in a primary that for the first time in my adult life practically was worthless. The Democrats run the same old people while the Republicans offered practically no one in opposition. It's a joke and a mockery of the election system. No one could even be bothered to run in Lehighton for mayor. Mahoning Township did not even have two people to run for supervisor and that is just two municipalities. Most of our towns barely have enough incumbents to fill council seats.

It's a crying shame that we allow these local machines to trap us into the same old people the same old ways. If you don't believe that, look at the county race in the last election in which those machines put the same old names in the same old offices and people complained before, during and after the election. To add insult to injury the best the minority party could do was offer the unelected fourth candidate to be reappointed to a position that the voters did not give him in the first place. Who is to blame for that? It's easy to point fingers at the party, but where were the other candidates to take the resigned commissioner's place? They were not there because of the thousands of Democrats in Carbon County not one could be bothered to even offer his or her name.

We wonder why there are meth labs popping up all over creation. Perhaps it is because no one wants to be involved any more in anything constructive. Good organizations all over this area attempt to provide wholesome entertainment alternatives for the people in this area, but where are all of you? No one can be bothered to support anything. Speaking as a member of the board of the Heritage Center in Summit Hill, we hold monthly entertainment events and a handful of people show up and most of them are not even from the Panther Valley area.

We teach by example. When is the last time we said hello to our neighbor? When is the last time we took an interest in each other in our neighborhoods? We wonder why we are having these problems with drug labs and pushers. Perhaps it is because we do not pay attention and we do not do anything to prevent it. It is a multi faceted problem starting with the police and mayors and ending with us. We need to make it uncomfortable for these people to exist in our towns. The police need to step it up and push back. The mayors need to stop shaking hands and taking photo ops and start leading their departments into this war.

We can be so much better than this. We need to get involved. There should be community watches throughout the Panther Valley. There needs to be support for these endeavors and it should be a priority. It is time to show pride in our area once again and clean the scum out of our streets before it is too far gone.

Each community has its own challenges to overcome, but damn it, now is not the time to throw your hands up in the air and give up. But it's not just the fault of us the citizens. Our leaders need to get off their seats and lead the charge. What does that mean?

Well, each town has its own issues and I speak from the experience of a councilman. In Summit Hill I think that means that its borough council needs to lead by example. Showing up to one meeting a month is not doing the job. Ten years ago the men with whom I served got out in the community and participated in events. We very rarely see councilmen now at anything. It's your job to be involved. Coaldale needs to get its head out of the sand and be more honorable. The mayor should quit along with the illegally seated councilman. Those two are contemptible in their disregard for the law.

And in Lansford, well let me just say this. While I think individually each one of those members mean well, together that borough council is the most dysfunctional body I have seen in a long time. The infighting and feuding amongst yourselves is embarrassing to the entire Panther Valley.

Perhaps you should find a marriage counselor or a group therapist to work out your issues. Your constant bickering is a poor example to your town and you should all be ashamed of your inability to lead as a body. The borough could be so much better than it is. Stop thinking about your own interests and start putting your town in front. You can fix this if you stop acting like egotists and start acting like leaders.

We lead by example. The next time you sit in those seats in our council chambers in Panther Valley remember that the towns you serve are reflections of your leadership. Show your people how to be proud by acting that way yourselves and maybe, just maybe things can improve.

Til next timeā€¦