Not Cease from Exploration

Sunday, July 11, 2010

PILOT Targets

Since Scranton City Council President Janet Evans has been unsuccessful in extorting...I mean garnering...additional payments in lieu of taxes from the University of Scranton, I'm wondering if she is going to continue the crusade with other institutions.

Now before I go any further, I'll again state for the record that the University should be paying more to the City of Scranton to compensate it for lost tax revenue and for the direct services that the city provides to the University community. Legally...I know, people don't want to hear this...but legally the University, being an IRC 501(c)(3) organization, doesn't have to pay anything to Scranton. Not one thin dime. Similar institutions that are involved in religious, charitable, cultural or educational endeavors don't have to contribute that thin dime either. However what is legal and what is right aren't always the same thing, a point that the exceptionally well educated Jesuits that run the University know full well.

Back to the post.

I think Mrs Evans has been aiming at the wrong target. Instead of simply tackling the University of Scranton as a individual institution, I'm wondering if she will next go after the largest non-profit in Scranton, namely the Roman Catholic Church. Think about it: in theory the Church de facto owns the University of Scranton via the Society of Jesus. Why deal with the subsidiary when you can, in fact, deal with the parent company instead? What's more, there is plenty of other Church owned or Church-related property and endeavors that happen within the confines of Scranton's 25 square miles, so why not look into it. For example, there is a Novena to St Ann coming up shortly (details HERE if you are interested in attending) that will bring thousands of people into the city. It will also require extra police coverage. Sounds like it will cost the city some money. Maybe the Church should be making a PILOT contribution to compensate the City for its expenses related to the Novena.

The above was written somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but it makes a point: Mrs Evans is once again engaging in a crusade that has more to do with demonizing an enemy (substitute "Doherty" for "U of S") in order to score points with a personal constituency (substitute "Municipal Unions" with "U of S haters") than it does in actually achieving results. If she were truly interested in working with the University come up with PILOT contributions, then maybe, just maybe, the negotiations wouldn't be happening on the grandstand that is Scranton City Council Chambers. These negotiations probably wouldn't take the form of "in order to get your building variance you have to give us money" talk either.

By the way, we've seen this before. Yes, we've already had Mrs Evans demanding that council could open up a budget (it can't) and that it could seat its own appointees (it can't). This is like a bizarre version of the television show Home Improvement...same plot repeated over and over again.

In the final analysis, I realize that it's hard to gain cheap political points when you are working behind the scenes, but maybe Mrs Evans needs to put her ego aside, stop pandering to her narrow constituency, and start actually working with people to solve problems. I know, this means giving up some perceived authority, but governing a city is a hell of a lot different than governing a high school English class. Maybe, just maybe, Mrs Evans needs to change her approach if she is actually interested in achieving some results. Command and control works well in the Marine Corps and when your audience is a class of 16 year old young adults, but it falls flat when those who you want to control don't actually have to listen to you.

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