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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A victory for common sense & fiscal responsiblity

Local news outlets (such as WNEP) have reported that a three judge panel in Lackawanna County has denied the City of Scranton's request for a 1% commuter tax.  You can read more HERE.  This is a victory for common sense & fiscal responsibility.

Common Sense.

The approximately 20,000 commuters that work in Scranton didn't create mess that Scranton is in, so simply put, they shouldn't be responsible for fixing it.  Period.  Who is responsible?  Well in my opinion, the order goes something like this:

1) Elected officials
This includes the Mayor and just about every member of city council for the last quarter century.  These elected officials have regularly spent more than they had and made up the difference using just about every silly idea (including the current silly idea de jour, lease-backs) and borrowing trick known to accountancy. Also, successive City Councils have routinely put members political interests ahead of those of taxpayers by constantly bowing to public safety union member demands.

2) Public safety union officers
I specifically mean the leaders of the police and (especially) fire departments labor unions.  They have used scare tactics and taken advantage of the political ambitions of elected officials to blunt just about every attempt at seriously controlling costs.  When your employer is bankrupt, only in Scranton do workers demand (and get) raises.

3) PEL
For providing spineless guidance.  I also fault them for the city's loss in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which cost the city a $30 million award (which public safety union members "generously" reduced to a paltry $15 million).  If you advise the city...and your advice is should be held accountable. As far as I can tell, PEL is accountable to no one.

4) Taxpayers
See item #1...ultimately taxpayer apathy is to blame for poor city administration.

Now the above may sound like "union bashing", but so be it.  More than half of the city's expenses are in the area of personnel costs, and when workers control the terms and conditions of employment...which they do in's no wonder that the city is run basically for their exclusive benefit.  In one sense I really can't blame them:  over the decades, union leaders simply took advantage of elected officials desire to remain in office at all costs.  They get an "A" for strategy, but an "F" for overall impact.

So what should be next?  The city needs to declare bankruptcy and open up all of its contracts for re-negotiation.  This includes labor contracts.  No one...and I mean NO ONE...employed by the city of Scranton should be getting a raise as long as the City is unable to pay its bills.  No one has a "right" to be employed by the city.  No one has a "right" to a raise.  City residents are going to have to...

...accept higher costs for city services
...accept fewer police and firemen on duty

...and most importantly...

...start to demand some accountability for results.

It all starts with the Mayor and City Council, but will soon have to move to the Scranton School Board, which has it's own set of fiscal nightmares.  The connection though is that both the City and School District are funded by the same group of taxpayers, so it's high time for some coordination and cooperation.

In the end, this can either be a new beginning for the city or it can be the last spiral down the drain.  It's time for Mayor Doherty and Mayor (I mean Council President) Evans to face reality and stop pretending as if we can simply kick Scranton's problems down the road a few more years.  A "few more years" is now.

Time to put on the big-boy pants ladies and gentlemen.

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