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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Response to Tom Borthwick's recent comment

My fellow blogger Tom Borthwick recently commented on THIS POSTING.  Here's what he had to say"

Hey Steve!

I was running for office while Bill was, so I didn't run around putting up signs or knocking on doors for him. I was an open supporter, but there are a lot of other hard workers out there who haven't been put on boards.

In my case, I feel I was asked because I'm a total geek. For the past two years, I have been e-mailing Bill any kind of research or innovative articles I've found on municipal finance, revenue, and even parking. Jon Geeting over at Keystone Politics has pointed me to a lot of great information over the years.

I honestly believe Bill picked me not because of patronage or quid pro quo, but rather I will work. 

Those are just my thoughts. God knows I've been rejected 100 times for other posts! :o)


Now not being one to miss an opportunity to create some (relatively) easy content, I thought I'd respond in this space.  With apologies for bold text, as my eyes are bothering me and I need just about every enhancement I can think of in order to be able to type this.

Dear Tom,

Congratulations again on being named to the Parking Authority.  Let me say first and foremost that I do honestly and truly believe that your interest in helping the City of Scranton is born out of genuine love and concern for your home, not out of a desire for personal gain.  Your level of enthusiasm is simply too real to fake, and I know the shoe leather and calories you have expended in your efforts to make a difference. 

However (and you knew there was going to be a "however"), my issue with board and authority positions has more to do with the selection process than it does personalities.  For me, it's an even worse farce than something you are (sadly) all too familiar with, namely the appointment of replacement directors for the Scranton School District (SSD).  While the SSD at least goes through the appearance of a process...all be it in an incredibly disingenuous manner...the current and all past mayors of Scranton don't even bother going through the motions.  The electorate has, in fact, no way of knowing how or why individuals are picked for these leadership and policy making positions.  Now in your case you told me that you have been in correspondence with Mayor Courtright about parking issues and ideas, which is nothing short of terrific.  But here's my question for you:  are you the exception or the rule?

Want an answer to the question I just posed Tom?  I'm feeling generous, so what the heck:  The answer is "we have no idea".  Want to know why we have no idea?  Because the process of selecting board and authority members is, in fact, a classic example of one where political patronage is the rule, not the exception.  There is no transparency.  Members of the public have to take it as a article of faith that a SCRANTON POLITICIAN IS NOT MAKING POLITICAL decisions.  Re-read that one for me Tom:  the current system relies on Scranton politicians not acting like Scranton politicians.  

Excuse me for a moment, as I have to laugh myself into a petit mal seizure*.


Now in fairness, your typical Scranton politician will respond to my comments (above) by saying something like "But, but, but Steve...City Council has to approve the appointments!  That keeps politics out of the process".   

Oh wait, hold on again for a moment.

Sorry, I had another one of those laughter induced seizures.

The reality is that Scranton City Council has no say in the process for selecting board and authority candidates; all they can do is vote yes or no on an appointment.  What's more, anyone want to argue with me about the effectiveness of past and present Scranton City Councils when it comes to just about anything?  In this realm, they are a check and balance that basically checks and balances nothing.  Yes, a prior council did require that resumes come with all nominations, but we all know that was an exercise in the political theater of "gotcha" between former Mayor Doherty and former Council President Evans.  

The bottom line is this Tom:  Your appointment is a blip.  An aberration.  An anomaly.  I know this because the process for selecting board and authority members is not transparent.  It is not open to public scrutiny.  It's an exercise in political privilege that everyone knows is diseased, but in the open and festering wounds that are Scranton, it is simply the lessor of many forms of decay.

The residents of Scranton are fortunate in that now there is one person (you Tom) who seems genuinely interested in helping the city through an mayoral appointment.  Now there may be others serving on boards and authorities who are also genuine in their desire to serve the city and who are actually qualified for the positions they hold, but the current process simply doesn't let the taxpayers know those facts.  In the end, that was my point in RA#145.

All the Best!
- Steve

(*) For the record, there is nothing funny about seizures or seizure disorders.  I've known people who suffered from them, and my use of the phrase here is just to make a point.  No offense is intended.

1 comment:

Tom Borthwick said...

I see where you're coming from.

The boards are all different. Mine, for example, serves at the pleasure of the Mayor, so I can be booted anytime. The rest, he has appointment power when terms expire.

I see them as natural extensions of administration prerogative. But you're right, there is no real public process so we know what people bring to the table. I'll be writing about it on my blog, but otherwise it wouldn't be out there.

It wouldn't be a bad idea to have people publicly speak about their appointments, or to have the reasons for them made public.

For what it's worth, I do not believe that I am the exception, but that can't really be proven except with a more public process. Or with time.

We'll see if I can do something about it!