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Monday, July 29, 2013

Completely Dysfunctional

I don't live in Scranton, but it is the largest city around here, and it helps set the tone for what happens in the rest of our area.  Outsiders see Scranton/Wilkes-Barre as one area, not a series of cities, boroughs and townships.

I watched Thursday night's Scranton council meeting on TV, and it nearly made me cry.

First of all, no one in Scranton government, for decades, has grasped the concept of not spending more than you take in.  Our friends at the Sunday Times recently did a story on the possibility Scranton residents will have to swallow a 117 per cent tax increase in the very near future.

Thursday night, I watched people and some council members blast the University of Scranton, one of the few entities actually buying, building, and investing in the city, for wanting to tear down a brick box that has outlived its useful life, in favor of something that will bring more students and their money to the area.

Scranton council's solicitor pulled out a map, nearly 40 years old, that showed the U of S has expanded beyond its original and intended footprint.  Typical Scranton-- hold someone to something 40 years old.  Times and needs change.  Change.  That's another concept that seems foreign to a small, but local minority.  They seem content to have Scranton remain a backward, bankrupt coal town, known only for financial mismanagement and a bad TV sitcom.

Have you been up to the hill section recently?  Yes, the University has purchased a lot of property and taken it off the tax rolls.  In exchange, we have new construction, safe housing for students, bright street lights, and off street parking-- leaving room on the streets for residents' cars.  It's a reasonable trade off.  The University of Scranton is one of the economic drivers in the city.  Yet, a group has decided it's their mission to harass progress and throw up roadblocks at every turn.

Yes, the U has unpaid bills and it could kick in a lot more payment in lieu of taxes.  But, tell me something, would you voluntarily give money to a city that's making your life miserable?  Would you give money to a city that will just throw the cash down a black hole?  The U really needs to go on a public relations campaign to show all it gives back to Scranton.

The personal attacks and hearsay Thursday night were unbelievable.  When pressed to back up their allegations, several of the irresponsible ran for cover.  I'm all for free speech.  I'm also for accountability. 

It's sad to lose Leahy Hall, the old YWCA building.  I'm in favor of preserving as much of the past as possible.  On the other hand, the building is not architecturally significant.  It is little more than a brick box.  The U promises to make the history of the old building part of the new one, a history lesson we never had before.  Again, a reasonable trade off. 

Were people actually listening the other night?  There's no room on campus for a big new building.  Saving Leahy Hall would mean the U would have to expand into the hill or, gasp, the downtown.

An increased U of S presence downtown isn't such a bad idea.  Those people have to eat, shop and park somewhere.  It might as well be downtown.  It can use some new blood.

Full disclosure:  I'm a Marywood graduate, but I do own a University of Scranton tee shirt.

Speaking of downtown, parking is more expensive than ever.  You now have to feed the meters until 6 PM.  Nice way to promote a business friendly atmosphere.  Remember that plan to place meters near General Dynamics to soak its workers?  How did that work out for you?  Instead of working out a plan for reasonably priced long term parking for people who work in the city, cars now clog residential neighborhoods.  Brilliant!

One of the problems is a major failure to look well into the future.  Scranton lives in the past, and vendettas control decisions.

Property owners, get your checkbooks ready.