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League of Women Voters suppress millennial vote by refusing to live stream political debate

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The League of Women Voters of Lackawanna County refuse to live stream a political debate on Wednesday (October 25) between the mayoral candidates in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Better than the Weekend was granted access to stream the debate on Facebook Live before having that right revoked 24 hours later in a seemingly useless dictatorial move that has candidates and voters speaking out.

As the editor of a news organization headquartered in Scranton, I’ve noticed a void in political coverage that captures the attention of millennials in regards to the future of their city. In an effort to fill that void and encourage young people to get involved in their local government, I planned to stream the debate live on our site’s Facebook page. Since 61 percent of Better than the Weekend’s readers are between the ages of 18 to 34, I hoped the live stream could stimulate the deficient voter turnout. Only 20 percent of registered voters in Scranton voted for a mayoral candidate in the primary election last May. That’s 11 percent lower than the average turnout throughout Lackawanna County.

Millennials need to be spoken to on their level. We’re a generation that is connected, engaged and fueled by strong convictions. We respect ourselves. We accept people who are different than us. We fight for what we believe in. We love our freedom.

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Still, we’re often left out of the conversation. Based on the actions by the League of Women Voters, it’s seemingly deliberate.

The LWV’s rationale for invalidating our already agreed upon coverage was attributed to an exclusive agreement with a public access television station called ECTV, which is only available to Comcast users. Thirty percent of millennials don’t even have cable . Having an exclusive media contract with a public access station that basically nobody has ever heard of makes the event less accessible. Even though the LWV says they post the debate in its entirety on YouTube at a later date, many millennials don’t even know the debate is happening. The 2013 mayoral debate only has 360 views on YouTube.

Instead, the LWV is choosing to cut a bulk of Scranton voters out of the conversation by not capitalizing on all of the social media platforms available. An August 2017 Pew Research Center study found two-thirds of U.S. adults get news from social media. (No such study was available for public access television.) Overall, Facebook fiercely leads the pack, outstripping all of the other social media outlets when it comes to where people get their news. Having the mayoral debate only stream on YouTube at a later date is very restrictive, considering only 18 percent of all American get their news from YouTube compared to 48 percent of Americans who stay informed on Facebook.

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If the LWV is honestly committed to educating and engaging voters, as claimed on their website, they would gladly open this debate to any media outlet wishing to stream it live on Facebook. There’s an enthusiastic gap in voter turnout and I want to bridge that gap. If millennials aren’t being reached through outlets the LWV has already been broadcasting the mayoral debate, then they need to reach them on a platform they have more access to and not hold this public debate hostage. If they’re so out of touch, they should change their name to the League of Nana Voters, grab some yarn, move to Daytona, and just retire and make blankets for their grandchildren.

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I’m not the only one confused by the act of voter suppression.

Roy Thomas, a disabled veteran who served in the Navy, is a Scranton voter who is rightfully pissed.

“It’s a huge slap in the face to people who fought for every American to have rights, especially people who are disabled from fighting for those rights, to see people like the League of Women Voters block these rights,” he said.

Thomas, who is unable to attend the taping due to being disabled, also said: “If other people can go see it live, and someone is willing to live stream it so someone who is disabled like me can see it, then why would you stop that from happening? I don’t care if it’s being posted at a later date. I want to see it live. I saw so many clips of Trump saying ridiculous things, but when I saw it unedited, it wasn’t the same. How do I know they won’t edit anything when they have the opportunity to have it streamed live?”

A spokesperson from Mayor Bill Courtright’s reelection campaign said the mayor is “absolutely in favor” of making the debates as accessible as possible and has no objection to Better than the Weekend, or anyone else, live streaming the debate.

Jim Mulligan, the Republican nominee for mayor, called the LWV’s decision to restrict live streaming on Facebook “ridiculous” and “inappropriate” over a phone call Sunday afternoon.

“Aren’t we supposed to be an open and honest democracy?” Mulligan said. “Millennials are part of this city, too. We need to do everything we can do that can get them involved and inspired to take action in the city.”

Gary St. Fluer, a write-in candidate, is furious.

“Why would the footage be uploaded at a later time when it can easily be streamed live? It seems like [the League of Women Voters] are part of a world that doesn’t represent the world we live in and where we’re going.”

Scranton voter Rebecca Hoover agrees that the LWV’s decision proves they’re out of touch.

“The League of Women Voters is obviously a group of old ladies who don’t know what the fuck they’re doing,” Hoover said. “Why are they fighting so hard to not have this event live on Facebook? It just doesn’t make sense. They’re not being transparent. They should lose their charter. They already lost my trust.”

The local and national LWV did not respond to emails or voicemails asking how the decision is in best interest for the voters.

News of the decision has lead to the LWV Facebook page rating to drop from 5 stars to a 1.7 rating. The decision also ignited an outpour of messages expressing disagreement with the League of Nana Voters.

The League of Nana Voters is standing strong with their decision to limit access and not reach as many voters as possible — even though all candidates have reached out directly to them to express they have no issue with live streaming by any reporting group. Following backlash, they appear to be grasping at straws and searching for ways to justify their actions. In a Facebook post, the LWV told St. Fleur that they do not allow live streaming due to possible Wi-Fi outages.

Courtesy Gary St. Fleur

If this was the issue with live streaming, why did the League of Nana Voters not tell me this to begin with, and then offer me the chance to film it. Come to think of it, there’s a possibility of a technical difficulty with the one camera they have there, which could benefit one candidate over the other. Right? This is what grandma’s grasping at straws looks like, boys and girls.

Better than the Weekend has decided to host its own town hall debate on Wednesday, Nov. 1. where millennials get to ask the questions and anyone can pull out their phone and live stream it. More information will be revealed soon on Facebook. If you’d like to participate, please email you name, cell phone number, and question for the candidates to justin@betterthantheweekend.com.

I want to be clear that this is not the type of story I was hoping to run about the debates in Scranton. I wasn’t looking for special attention. Let’s be honest. I didn’t choose to cover a local mayoral debate because I thought it would get me 10,000 new followers or make me the next Van Jones. I did this for the voters. All around the world, people look to America and are inspired by our ambition for freedom of speech and all of the liberties we stand for. Don’t let someone take away your right to know what’s going on in government. Speak up.

In the words of Woodrow Wilson: “Liberty has never come from the government. Liberty has always come from the subjects of it. The history of liberty is a history of resistance.”

Be heard by participating in our town hall and by calling the League of Women Voters National Headquarters at 202.429.1965 to request a suspension of their title and public apology to voters.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Gregory

    October 24, 2017 at 5:38 am

    The LWV has been the ONLY source of open debate for decades. For that, it deserves much credit. It’s a small group of volunteers of which I am a member. I’m a 37 year old male. Local, mainstream news should be embarrassed at their lack of political coverage especially by not hosting debates or town halls.

    While I’m quick to defend the LWV for the great things it has done for democracy in Lackawanna County, I also would like to see the debates live streamed. City Council is responsible for legislation, so I would suggest addressing them at their next meeting to get to the bottom of the exclusivity agreement.

    The exclusivity agreement with Comcast is likely rooted in the funding of ECTV. I don’t know all the details, but I also disagree with the city’s monopolistic contract with Comcast.

    I look forward to your town hall.

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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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Scranton Coach Accused of Bullying Opens Up, Says Parents May Be Seeking Revenge

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What seemingly started as a favor for a friend became an anti-bullying statement impetuously propagated around the region. Kathy Welby White shared a video April 27 on Facebook with a captioned slide of notes alleging a Scranton, Pennsylvania, high school baseball coach and gym teacher, George “Skip” Roskos, is a racist bully who picks on kids in Special Ed. Now suspended from coaching as his school district investigates, Roskos opened up to Better than the Weekend in a new interview.

I have shared this for a freind-YOU DID THIS SCRANTON SCHOOL DISTRICT!!!!! YOU WERE AWARE AND I HAVE PROOF!!! YOU LET THIS MAN HURT WAY WAY TOO MANY CHILDREN!!!! STOP THE HURT!!!!!! #stopthebullyatwshs

Posted by Kathy Welby White on Friday, April 27, 2018

The video claims to be anonymously produced by a student at West Scranton High who intensely fears Roskos and the influence it would have on the rest of their school experience if their identity was known. But there may be more to this story. Roskos says he knows the woman who posted the video. He identified her as the mom of a student he cut from his baseball team.

The court of public opinion weighed in as the video was watched roughly 40,000 times. Ghosts of Coach Roskos past have been creeping up on him over social media like a porn star who slept with a president.

Similar to Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ bulldog demeanor in a White House press briefing, some are blazing forward and going to bat in defense of the coach. 

 

The claims show a lot at stake. Either a child’s welfare is in jeopardy by a racist bully abusing their power or a coach with an unhinged enemy is at risk of losing their job and having their reputation ravaged by the trolls of Facebook.

Either way, everyone seems to be dropping the ball on this.

While Roskos is suspended from coaching duties, West Scranton High is still allowing him to teach gym class at the school. Shame on school officials for allowing someone who is being investigated for bullying students and possibly making racist remarks to even be around the kids on school property until the investigation is complete.

Rosemary Boland, president of the Scranton Federation of Teachers, told a Scranton newspaper she doesn’t give the video much credence since it was made anonymously. If a student fears the consequences of holding an educator accountable for abusing their power, and wants to remain anonymous out of terror, they should have the right to have their claims taken seriously during an investigation. Shame on her for publicly abandoning the welfare of a child and not stepping down from her position once her feelings were reported by the news.

A Scranton newspaper reported the story and quoted the coach only twice in the article, one quote being: “False, false, false,” on his response to the allegations. That’s elementary reporting that shouldn’t even be accepted by an intern. The community deserves better reporting. The taxpayers funding the educators salaries deserve more thought-out questions to be asked that result in more answers.

Countless people are ripping Roskos a new asshole online. If you’re going to defend a child for being bullied and hold the accused accountable, don’t be a bully and make fun of someone’s weight and alleged fast food obsession. Demand action. Encourage the student to come forward and show them you’ll have their back. Unless a victim comes forward, the claims are just rumors.  Should rumors on social media have the power to ruin someone’s life? If that’s the case, you can say anything you want about someone you don’t like and ruin their life. That’s just fucked up.

Better than the Weekend reached out to both Kathy Welby White and Coach Roskos to further share their stories. Roskos is the only one who agreed to be interviewed. This is what he had to say:

What do you most enjoy about coaching? The interactions and relationships you can develop with teenage players while also having the opportunity to be competitive in a game that’s been part of my life basically since I was born. 

The video was posted by Kathy Welby White. Do do you know her? Yes. Mrs. White’s son tried out for our team a few years ago and he was not selected. I believe he graduated from West Scranton High School in 2014. 

Have you experienced retaliation from a student or parent when having to cut someone from the team in the past? Several times. This example here with the recent Facebook video. In the video, the creator of it, if the creator is being honest, he said he played from T-Ball through junior varsity. I guess my assumption is the video is made by someone who wasn’t selected for the varsity team so he chose to make this video. Or it’s possible it could be parents of a student who may have been cut. Parents usually react more strongly than the young men. 

After the video surfaced, did you take a moment to self-reflect and think, ‘Hey, maybe I went too far? Maybe I hurt a kids feelings and made them feel uncomfortable without realizing’? I do that type of self-reflection all the time with students in my classes and students on our teams. 

I’m specifically asking about when you saw this video. Did you self-reflect on your actions or did you instantly discredit the allegations? I probably did both. I know it’s false, but I also thought through some past interactions and also talked to the people who are closest to me on a daily basis.

You’ve described your coaching style as being ‘direct.’ What is an example of something you say in your direct coaching style to motivate your team? That we need to be better. That we need to look at different ways to be more competitive. 

Do you tell students they need to be better calmly or aggressively? I’m always calm.

Does a calm tone really motivate kids to win a game? Do my tones change if we’re in a game or at a practice? Definitely. 

Have you ever called them pussies? No.

Did ever tell an athlete they should be fast because of the color of their skin? No.

Do you think today’s youth is too sensitive? I actually think kids, for the most part, are the same in 2018 as they were when I started coaching in 1996. I think kids wants to be challenged and want to be successful. I think parents have changed a great deal. Social media is a big part of that. Twenty-two years ago, if a coach told somebody at practice something they didn’t like, they’d go home and blow off a little steam to their parents. If their parents wanted to blow off steam to another parent, they’d have to call them on the phone. That person would have to be home to answer and then they’d have a discussion. Now someone can post something on Facebook, and tens of thousands of people can see it in minutes and it spreads a lot more quickly. 

How has the attention impacted you? It’s hurtful to see that people have written negative things about me; about members of my family. 

Have you cried? No.

Do you think you’re approachable to a student who may feel bullied in school? Yeah. I’ve been confided in dozens of times from students in my class to players on the team. 

Being a teacher and coach in the digital age, when students have their phones with them and can express their feelings toward you for the world to see on social media, does that make your job more challenging? I’ve never thought about that. I just haven’t.

Do you think it’s appropriate for a coach to yell at an athlete to motivate them? Sure.

Do you think it’s appropriate for a coach to tell an athlete they aren’t good enough and could be better? Depends on the situation, but usually, yes. 

Has your behavior ever negatively impacted your coaching career? All my interactions are working toward a place of positivity with the team toward a common goal of developing competitive young men and trying to win games.

Yes or no, has your behavior ever impacted your coaching career? No.

Can you explain this picture circulating on Facebook?  

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Roskos: I held two positions with the American Legion. I was told I had to resign one or the other. It was left to me which position I wanted to keep and which position I wanted to resign. I told him I wouldn’t resign either, but he could choose if he wanted to basically fire me as regional director. And essentially, that’s what he did, but he also removed me from my coaching position.

Why did they remove you from both? If you read the letter, you’d see there’s no specific charge in there.

So, if you had resigned from one of the positions, you wouldn’t have that cease and desist notice? Yes. That’s what I was told in advance of getting that letter. 

Is it hard for you to walk into school every day with your head up while it’s public that you’re being investigated for allegedly bullying a student and making racist remarks? It doesn’t affect me from doing my job because I’m a professional. One of the things I, and other high school coaches, often teach our kids is that regardless of what goes wrong we have to bounce back and still do our job. 

The invitation for Kathy Welby White to share her side of the story still stands.

To the student who made these claims: You’re invited to share your story and be acknowledged.

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The Unpoppable Molly Balloons: Inside the World of Balloon Artistry

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I’m on the phone with Molly, a twenty-something from Kansas City, and I have to apologize that I had one too many Manhattan’s at lunch. I’m a little buzzed and I want to make sure I’m not speaking too loudly into the phone.

“I’ve been so busy, I can’t remember the last time I had a full drink,” I shout. “I’m a total light-weight at the moment.”

“I love that about you,” she asserts in relief. “I’m making myself a cocktail right now.”

In no time, I hear Molly slurping a coconut-flavored LaCroix indelicately laced with vodka. Next thing I know, we’re talking about balloons.

And it wasn’t the alcohol talking. Her name is Molly Balloons — maybe not according to the government but it is on Facebook and that’s all that counts, right? She’s a balloon artist who hustles a full-time living providing unforgettable experiences accompanied by rubber sacs filled with air — from birthday surprises and corporate events to standing on stilts in a Christmas tree dress on Good Morning America and inflating the hype of a mall opening in Katar, which she admittedly couldn’t find on a map to save her life. As Molly’s unique passion is about to reach its first six-figure-income year, she’s literally blowing up. Her craft is unstoppable. Spirit: unpoppable. And her message is motivating AF.

Molly says the place responsible for her first professional gig in balloon art is the same place responsible for the first 15 pounds I gained after high school: Chic-Fil-A.

“I actually cold-called Chic-Fil-A when I was in high school and I lied to them. I was like, ‘Hi, I’m a local professional balloon artist. Would you like to hire me as an attraction to help bring families in?’ And they said yes to that, to which I said, ‘Oh fuck. What am I going to do now?'”

She faked it until she made it. When someone asked her for a cat balloon animal, she presented them with a dog. But she improved. By the end of senior year, Molly found herself graduating from balloon pets to designing an inflatable homecoming dress.

After homecoming, Molly didn’t stop adding balloons to her wardrobe — whether it was at a party …

… a red carpet …

… or at the beach!

Molly admits she continued with balloon-making because it helped her fall in love with herself.

“I was always bound to do something with visual performance art,” she says. “I was my high school mascot. I was a tap dancer. I made ceramics and origami. I was in an award-winning barbershop quartette. Making balloon art my career was less me falling in love with balloons, but balloons making me fall in love with all of the things I loved about myself. Balloons enabled me to dance around that entire spectrum of performing arts.”

The more vodka Molly is soaking up, the more philosophical our conversation is getting. She explains that her unconventional career is her way of reminding people life is a celebration, not a grind.

“If I make you a balloon hat at a party, you’re not going to wait to wear it,” she tells me. “You’re going to wear it now because you know it’s going to pop or deflate. You’re going to take this moment right now to appreciate its humor and enjoy it. It brings us back to the now and appreciating the moment. People are so easily distracted by work or school or Pinterest or whatever. I love that people exist with a way of living in the moment when it comes to balloon art.”

My phone conversation is Molly is coming to an end. We’re both sobering up, but I’m left with an intoxicating understanding. For a moment, I’m forgetting about all of the issues that are dividing me and my friends and family — basically gun control and the Trump presidency. I actually connected with someone based not on the tribal bearings of my beliefs, but the universal joy and free-spirited finesse Molly induces that reminds us there’s more that unites us in life than separates us.

That’s what art does.

That’s what Molly Balloons does.

P.S. Follow Molly Balloons on Instagram @mollyballoons and Snapchat @mollymunyon to catch her vibe and see more of her art.

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