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Friday, May 9, 2014

Voting to Change Lackawanna County Government

For the record I am no longer a resident of Lackawanna County, but I have been following the increasingly nasty debate that has unfolded over the government study commission recommendations. In the upcoming election, a vote of YES would result in the county's form of government changing, while a vote of NO would result in the current status quo.  Here is how I see the issues:

What's the Issue?  Reducing Corruption
Reason to Vote for Change?  Not Really 
Corruption comes from the actions of fellow humans, which means any form or organization of government could potentially be corrupt.  Put another way, good people could make the current form of government work in Lackawanna County, just as corrupt folks could do the opposite.  Conversely, a council does not prevent corruption; just look at the Scranton School Board to see this fact in action.  However...

What's the Issue?  Improving Checks and Balances 
Reason to Vote for Change?  Yes
What is true about the current form of government in Lackawanna County is that two individuals run everything in a manner that is basically unchecked.  The current majority commissioners can do whatever they want relative to the operation of the county government without having to answer to anyone, other than to a small, sheepishly compliant voting population every four years.

What's the Issue?  Reducing the Current Cost of Government
Reason to Vote for Change?  No
I simply haven't seen anything that tells me that changing the current form of government will result in lower overall costs of governance over the short term.

What's the Issue?  Reducing the Future Growth of Government
Reason to Vote for Change?  Yes
Definitely a compelling reason to vote for the change.  Simply put, nothing stops the two current majority commissioners from raising taxes pretty much any way they want, making government as large as they want.  Disbursing that power to tax over a larger body can only help to keep the growth of government in check.

What's the Issue?  The Economy
Reason to Vote for Change?  Yes
It's been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but yet expecting a different result.  No where is this more true than when you consider the economic state of Lackawanna County (and all of NEPA for that matter).  NEPA has consistently...over years...had the highest unemployment rate in the state.  Ponder that:  such garden spots as Altoona and Erie have better economic outlooks than our region.  Yet what have our elected officials, including the current commissioners, done about it?  The answer is simple:  next to nothing.  Yes, I know that the current commissioners have an initiative here or there, which creates nice fodder for newsletters and photo ops.  The reality though is that the current model of large government run for the political benefit of elected commissioners has contributed to...not helped to reduce....our chronically high unemployment rate.  How?  By perpetuating government-centric solutions and ignoring real drivers (such as high tax rates and perceptions of corruption/pay to play) that help create the economic pickle that is NEPA.  Where is the sense of urgency on the part of the current county commissioners when it comes to reducing the unemployment rate?  That's a trick question, because there is no sense of urgency.  Therein lies the problem.

In the end, I think the single most compelling reason to change Lackawanna County's form of government is simply the argument for change itself.  What country residents have now does not work when it comes to reducing the long-term cost of government and it has not helped when it comes to improving the county's dismal economic state.  I don't know if changing the county's form of government will actually help all that much in these areas, but I do know that staying on the same path guarantees nothing will ever change.

Bottom Line:  If I lived in Lackawanna County I would  be voting YES on May 20th. 

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