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Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Politics of the Promise, Scranton Style

I'm looking at a card from three candidates for Scranton City Council, Mrs Evans, Mr Rogan and Mr Joyce. The card state that, if elected, they pledge to:

  1. Work to Reduce Taxes
  2. Increase police and Fire Protection
  3. Help bring Family Sustaining Jobs to Scranton
  4. Vote against ANY tax increases
  5. Vote against borrowing to balance budgets
  6. Vote against wasteful spending
  7. Restore decorum to Council Meetings

So let's think about this rationally:

Items 1, 4, and 5 would mean less potentially less money coming into Scranton.

Item 6 would mean reduced costs, but the definition of "wasteful" is subject to interpretation; for example, some one might think that having, say, two health inspectors is "wasteful", while someone else could say that both are needed.

Item 2 involves spending more money...potentially a lot more money.

Item 3 could involve spending more money, depending on how this is executed. For the record, I don't believe that any of the three candidates support Office of Community and Economic Development (OCED) loans to businesses (if I am incorrect, someone can please correct me), so that seems to be out of the question. Outside of OCED money, I'm not entirely sure that Scranton City Council can do anything tangible...outside of reducing business taxes (which would definitely involve reducing revenues) bring more "family sustaining" jobs to Scranton.

With all due respect, item 7 is a lost cause, no matter who is sits in the council chairs. If you disagree with me, you have no doubt never actually seen a Scranton City Council meeting.

Look, I'm not advocating for any candidate for any local office; rather, I'm simply suggesting that we look at what politicians promise us and ask one simple question:

"Is what's being promised reasonable and rational, or am I being told things that this person thinks I WANT to hear?"

City budgets are a lot like home budgets in that if you have less money coming in, you have less money to spend. Sure, you can cut out a restaurant visit each week (i.e., reduce wasteful spending), but in the end the big ticket items are your paycheck (in the city's case taxes) and your bills (in the city's case salaries, benefits, other costs of running Scranton). If you reduce what you have coming in by reducing taxes, you have to reduce the money you spend. Where I work, salaries and benefits represent roughly about 60% - 75% of our expenses, and of the remaining 25% - 40%, well some of those costs are fixed, such as data charges, rent, etc. I suspect that a city budget is not all that disssimilar.

Again, I am NOT telling anyone to vote one way or another relative to Mrs Evans, Mr Joyce or Mr Rogan. Furthermore, if I get a card or other literature from the other candidates (Mr Morgan and Mr Miller) I'll be sure to comment on their promises as well. Instead, it's my hope that people think first and vote second. If in thinking first someone reads what the politician promises, and on balance it makes rational sense, then definitely vote for them. If it doesn't, then consider another candidate.

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