On and Off The Mountain/Stephanie Grubert

LCCC PASTRY ARTS STUDENTS DISPLAY GINGERBREAD HOUSES-Students in the pastry arts management program at Luzerne County Community College recently made gingerbread houses as part of a class project. The gingerbread houses were on display at the Joseph A. Paglianite Culinary Institute and those who viewed the display were able to vote for their favorite house. The Pastry Arts Club also held a winter open house in conjunction with this year’s display. Shown with the winning gingerbread houses are, from left --Rich Nemetz, instructor, pastry arts, LCCC; Gabriela Luna, third place; Judy Romanelli, first place; and Matthew Bielecki, Mountain Top, second place.

The 2016 “Polar Vortex” has not yet arrived in the eastern half of the US and Mountaintop only endured a couple of days of single digits last week. Here we are half way through January and we enjoyed a bit of a thaw after last Tuesday’s 3-degree low. The sun shone for two days and the 35 to 45 degree daytime temperatures returned. The “Polar Vortex” could come back. Or it might just be called January weather. It doesn’t get any more imaginative than that.

The predicted El Nino weather pattern hit southern California hard last week Three back to back storms soaked San Diego county causing widespread flooding and wind damage. San Diego normally enjoys dry and tranquil weather patterns and temperatures 65 to 70 degrees year round. Last week’s wake up call has residents scrambling to make sure blocked storm drains were cleared before the next storm arrives. California and the west have suffered a drought for the past five years that has melted most of the snow on the mountains. Snowmelt is one of the primary sources of drinking water in the west.

What is El Niño? El Niño is an unusually strong band of warm water in the Pacific Ocean near the equator. That warm water has the potential for creating unusual weather patterns along the entire west coast during the fall and winter and a greater likelihood for more and longer rain storms.

Football Playoffs

No matter where you live January weather is always a topic of conversation. The Seattle Seahawks won their NFL playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings in 3-degree weather Sunday. Next Sunday Seattle will play the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte, North Carolina, where temperatures in the 40’s are more likely.

The playoffs offer plenty of excitement as we move toward the Super Bowl on Sunday February 7, 2016. Our family has some skin in the games this year. The Seattle Seahawks and the Carolina Panthers are two of our home teams. Mark Grubert lives in North Carolina and I am a Seattle native. The fans in Seattle are rabid. The town never had a professional team until well after I left the area for college in New York in the 1960’s. They are as loyal as can be and this year they want to play in Super Bowl 50 in the City of Santa Clara, California at the state-of-the-art Levi’s® Stadium, which is touted as the greenest and most technologically advanced professional football stadium in the United States.

I get interested at the end of the seasons, when the most competitive teams play for overall honors. After Seattle’s disappointing Super Bowl finish in 2015 I know they are looking for redemption. The fans have only one more playoff game before the Superbowl. Go Seahawks!

Municipal Reorganization Mountaintop’s municipalities

reorganized last week. Reorganization meetings are held the first Monday in January, with newly elected officials taking their seats and board positions shuffled. Committee appointments are also made.

Marcia and Bob Pipech will hold leadership chairs once again. Thomas was elected four years ago and after her first two years became a member of the majority. She told the public that she wanted transparency in Rice Township business and there has been peaceful government administration in Rice for the past two years.

Carolyn Lauer was sworn in as a member of the Nuangola Borough Council last week. Lauer was the borough’s secretary-treasurer for more than 30 years. Former Nuangola councilman John Kochan was not reelected in November. Kochan did get appointed to a seat on the Sewer Authority.

From time to time other Mountaintop boards have had troubled times. They have all come through them and they have earned the respect of their constituents at the same time. I wish all local governmental boards, police departments, and fire companies a peaceful, productive 2016.

Presidential Ballots Nationally the candidates running

for president of the United States are all over the TV. The Iowa Caucus on February 1 and the New Hampshire primary on February 9 bring that once in four-year blizzard of candidates and their organizations to those states for the first look at presidential prowess. Sometimes the winners go on in the progress, but more often the early recognition is diluted by summer. In the 2008 Iowa Caucuses Barack Obama beat Hillary Clinton 38% to 29% of votes cast. Obama was uncontested in 2012 and got 98%. He was elected president twice. Al Gore won in 2000 and John Kerry won in 2004, both carrying their party’s nomination to the end, and both lost to George W. Bush for president.

On the Republican ticket in 2012 Rick Santorum won the Iowa Caucuses by 34 votes over Mitt Romney. Romney ultimately ran as the Republican presidential nominee losing to Barack Obama. George W. Bush won the Iowa Caucuses in 1992 and again in 2000 and 2004. Bush was elected president twice.

New Hampshire is the first presidential primary in the nation voter diversity insures greater participation statewide. The publicity and momentum can be enormous from a decisive win by a frontrunner, or better-than-expected result in the New Hampshire primary. The upset or weak showing by a front-runner can change the calculus of national politics in a matter of hours.

Democrat Bernie Sanders is on top of the Democratic Poll in New Hampshire this week with 48% of the vote. Hillary Clinton is close behind with 43.3%.

Donald Trump is ahead of the 16 member Republican candidate pack in New Hampshire with 31% followed by Marco Rubio with 13.3% and Ted Cruz with 10.5%. Nipping at their heals are Jeb Bush with 10.0%, Chris Christie and John Kasich with 9.8% each.

Past winners of the New Hampshire primary who were elected president include: Governor Jimmy Carter in 1976, Lyndon B. Johnson 1964, and John F. Kennedy 1960.

In 2008 Hillary Clinton won New Hampshire over Barack Obama, but Obama was elected president. No recent Republican New Hampshire primary winners won the presidency, although John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012 did win the Republican nomination.

Confusing? More for them than for us. Winning either Iowa or New Hampshire is not a clear ticket to the White House. It’s more of a tryout in the minor league before a player is called up for the big game. Pennsylvania’s primary is Tuesday April 26, 2016. We have lots of time to think about how we will cast our votes.