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I've heard both sides of this argument for year now; like most things in life though, the truth is probably somewhere in the middle (although tilted towards the negative in this particular case).
Is the Chamber a bastion of insiders and the political/social elite? Sure it is. You could play bingo with the names you see in The Scranton Times that appear in a seemingly wide array of functions, institutions and events. There is no doubt in my mind that personal objectives (mainly for power) do trump the common good. The bigger sin though...at least in my mind...is the fact that the Chamber has been virtually silent for decades about the oppressive tax structure in Scranton and the generally very poor level of governance throughout NEPA.
On the other hand, the Chamber just doesn't have a ton of real power. If anything, the only "real" power they have is that of neglect. A business that hires an outside consultant to scope areas for a new operation will look at a variety of factors when considering location. If the facts support expansion/location in NEPA, well then it will happen. Unfortunately, one of those "facts" is business tax structure which, as noted above, the Chamber seems pretty silent on for the most part.
Would I like a more positively activist Chamber for Scranton? Sure. That's not likely to happen though. Part of the underlying problem is that voters in NEPA have a habit of voting based upon a perception of personal gain ("If I vote for Fred he will get my kid a teaching job") and just blind, willful ignorance ("I'm just going to pull the D lever"...note that I am a registered Democrat myself). The real economic solutions in NEPA can be found in the voting booth, not the Chamber's door step.
Just my eight sense.
As always, I enjoy the blog.
- Steve Albert
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A few additional thoughts.
I'm not accusing the Chamber of anything approaching malicious intent. If anything, I think the Chamber does do more than a few positive things. The fact remains though that it's an organization that should be a strong advocate for low taxes and good government. What is sorely lacking in NEPA in general and Scranton in particular? That would be low taxes and good government.
The question of "why" is really what's intriguing in this case.
When all is said and done, there must be a sort of equilibrium that's been reached by the Chamber. Some kind of state whereby the local business climate and political leadership are "good enough", otherwise why would they not be shouting the loudest, over the past 50 or more years, for change?
In the end, that's probably it actually: For the Scranton Chamber of Commerce, things are "good enough". Setting one's sights incredible low does have the advantage of making success always achievable. It's a kind of trophy for just showing up.