Living on Biden Street

Back in 2021 city officials in President Joe Biden’s Scranton, Pennsylvania birthplace renamed good old-fashioned Spruce Street as Biden Street, rechristening a traditional byway as a new and improved posh and prestigious address.

To make matters worse, Scranton City Council also renamed the Central Scranton Expressway as the President Joseph R. Biden Jr. Expressway. Commonly called the President Biden Expressway, the road name offers more than a mouthful for even a sober St. Patrick’s Day parade marcher.

Not everybody was happy with the name change.

Downtown Scranton real estate star, redevelopment guru and local business mogul John Basalyga still isn’t.

“I’ve always stated from the beginning that our roads should have never been changed,” Basalyga said Wednesday in an email. “It wasn’t fair that the owners of those roads, the taxpayers, had no say in it. I still stand firm on that.”

“They should change back the signs as fast as they put them up. I think it was the fastest thing I ever saw local government do,” he said.

That’s why almost 20,000 people have signed an online petition to change the Scranton expressway and downtown street names back to the former downtown brand.

Count me in.

Announcing the new name change, then Scranton City Council President and now Lackawanna County Commissioner Bill Gaughan dished out the parochial pro-Biden malarkey as well as anybody.

“The eyes of not only the country but the world have been on Scranton because of Joe Biden, and he’s never forgotten where he’s come from,” said Democrat Gaughan. “And I think people really take a lot of pride in the fact that we have a president that is from our city and we should celebrate that.”

Gaughan’s still riding with Biden even though the love train has jumped the track.

I take far more pride honoring the Pittston Avenue coal mine breaker boy and Major League baseball legend Steve O’Neill after whom I’m named than in genuflecting to a presidential plagiarist, warmonger and world-class phony.

Among other gritty accomplishments as citizen and athlete, O’Neill helped win a World Series as a Cleveland catcher, brought his buddy Babe Ruth to visit my father Shamus and his elementary school kid pals in the overwhelmingly Irish Minooka section of town, and managed the winning Detroit Tigers in the 1945 World Series.

Biden played Little League in the ritzy Green Ridge Scranton neighborhood.

City officials previously named a street across from Biden’s childhood home Joe Biden Way even before the official downtown name change. Democratic Scranton Mayor Paige Gephardt Cognetti showed up for the unveiling as the city’s first woman mayor. Previous Democratic Mayor Bill Courtright couldn’t make the ribbon cutting because he’s doing seven years in a federal prison for city political corruption. Cognetti promised the symbolism of the street sign will give “a lasting boost of confidence to every child who lives here.”

More Scranton children will grow up to follow in Courtright’s shuffling shower shoe footsteps onto the cell block than to walk around town with an extra dose of Scranton spirit sitting on their shoulders like a guardian angel. Courtright and several city cops who pleaded guilty to crimes, including a former SWAT team sniper who threatened members of his special operations’ group, once ruled as Scranton’s best role models.

Ask the poor kids in town, especially Black and Brown ones, if they trust white police and politicians.

No joke, as Biden likes to say.

For now Biden Street remains a blissful, glowing state of mind among the faithful.

In a downtown Scranton flush with federal Covid money pumped into small businesses, the retail district now boasts the contemporary appeal of one big Hank’s hoagie, a more than satisfying gut-busting cholesterol-laden sandwich dripping with oil from Biden’s favorite local haunt.

Biden burping back better doesn’t embarrass his boosters.

Elected and appointed Scranton officials take what they can get. Some political fixer’s hand is always out.

As a former Scranton Democrat who grudgingly voted in 2020 for the man Barack Obama lovingly called “the scrappy kid from Scranton,” even though 81-year-old Biden moved out of town as a 10-year-old, I marvel at the continuing delusion under which Scranton Democrats do no business as usual.

Scranton young professionals are equally guilty of pipe dreams, considering themselves the latest, greatest generation of hip. Lackawanna County, where Scranton serves as the county seat, actually pays a full-time county arts and culture director who lords power over government arts grants to anoint those who produce acceptable, inoffensive art in exchange for government approved subsidies.

No edgy painters, sculptors or writers need apply.

But don’t look for a mural on Biden Street honoring Brenda Williams who Scranton cops shot five times and killed back in 2009. The naked and mentally ill Black woman lunged toward an officer with a knife a fire team of cops allowed her to retrieve from the kitchen as she aimlessly walked around her apartment looking for reality.

When I suggested the heartfelt project to several local government and business art snobs nobody in the publicly subsidized mural business even responded to my written suggestion. Nice safe murals such as the one depicting the goofy cast from the inane NBC television comedy “The Office” the creators call “The Story of Us” is more akin to Scranton’s impression of itself.

Who are we, anyway?

We’re the privileged, pampered people with the right connections.

Access is everything in Scranton.

Pompous Chamber of Commerce bores and other elite Establishment flat tires who never made it to Wall Street now hobnob on Biden Street. Democratic political hacks go slumming there, too, stepping away from elite fundraisers at the McGregor mansion in the lace curtain Green Ridge section of the city where Biden lived as a kid.

It’s only a matter of time before a couple of coal cracker Mafia descendants flush with government startup cash open up a strip club on Biden Street called “The White House’ where naked “girls girls girls” can shake their Biden booty while “Biden” their time before they get busted for not paying off bribes to stay open.

Room also exists for increasing numbers of struggling refugees from Haiti, Afghanistan and elsewhere fighting to be free who deserve comfort on Biden Street. Forget those Palestinians from Gaza, though, since Biden has yet to invite any of the Gazan huddled masses after giving Israel the money, bombs and jets required to kill about 45,000 or so of them, including about 15,000 children.

Don’t forget the Mexicans, either!


These hard-working laborers who do jobs Scrantonian young people won’t do can  put a new roof on your house in half the time it took Mayor Cognetti to boast about her litany of global accomplishments on her resume when Biden appointed her in February as a member of the Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations.

Already trapped in a frenzied nationwide re-election campaign bid, Biden needs all the votes he can get (even on Biden Street) to win Pennsylvania in November’s general election.

Even if he loses, and he easily could, Democrats will always welcome Biden to buy his own sweet new loft on the hippest street in town, a nice man cave hideaway with granite counter tops and a shelf above the commode to use as his presidential library with an unopened copy of “Democracy for Dummies” collecting dust beside the bowl brush.

Known for posing in aviator shades and shallow see-through empathy, Joe Biden already understands that living on Biden Street is better than being up shit creek without a paddle. The president’s been adrift in a stinking Washington crap canal his whole political career.

Why stop now?