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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

When Facts Collide with Rhetoric (Scranton Style...It Ain't Pretty)

Interesting quote from Scranton City Council President Janet Evans that appeared in today's edition of The Scranton Times:

"Unfortunately, the (judge's) decision is rendered against not only city council but more importantly against the taxpayers of the city of Scranton,"

Mrs Evans is referring to victory by Mayor Doherty in the case of Scranton's city council trying to amend the 2010 budget. You can read the article HERE.

Really, so this was a judgment against the taxpayers of Scranton? Speaking as a taxpayer, I don't feel particularly slighted by Judge Mazzoni's decision. In fact, it evokes basically no reaction in me. Why? Well it has to do with a little thing called know, those pesky little things that sometimes get in the way of rhetoric. The facts I am referring to are:
  • This whole things is about a series of cuts that amounts to LESS THAN 1% of the city's budget.
  • Adding insult to injury, this minuscule amount of cutting didn't actually go towards reducing the overall budget; no, much of the money cut was actually going to be put back into the budget in the form of more clerical positions.
Yes, the cut was less than 1%, and the amount to be saved wasn't actually all a save...part was going to just be added back into the budget anyway. One of the additional clerical positions? Why a secretary for the city council secretary. Sweet.

You will pardon me if I find this whole thing a tab bit cynical.

Want some more subterfuge? Council's proposed changes reduced the salaries of administration officials, but it's not entirely clear how Mrs Evans arrived at the figures for the reduced pay. Did she look at salaries for similar positions in, say, Allentown, Reading, Wilkes-Barre and Erie? Or was this a case of just "cut $10,000 here, $15,000 there because I want to stick to to a political opponent"?

I'm actually for evaluating the salaries of administration employees. If a position in Scranton pays dramatically more than, say, a similar position in Reading, then maybe it should be reduced. All I want is a bit of logic to the process and proof that the cut is realistic. Oh, and having the cuts actually REDUCE THE CITY BUDGET BY A MEASURABLE AMOUNT would be nice as well.

One final point: health care costs went up an average of 8% last year, give or take a percentage or two. Mrs Evans and company are going to have to do some cutting alright for 2011, if only to make up for how much health care costs will go up for the city, which could be north of 10%. Mrs Evans could eliminate administration positions entirely and still not make up for just that increased cost. For someone who has accused the Mayor of playing fast and lose with the numbers, Mrs Evans isn't exactly inspiring confidence in her ability to act rationally. Rhetoric time is over and so are the political "gotcha" games.

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