Sunday, December 21, 2008

Scranton Mayor's Race 2009

The Scranton Times ran a political analysis of the candidates considering a run for Mayor in Scranton. The candidates listed, all Democrats, are Scranton School Director Chris Phillips, Scranton City Council Member Janet Evans, former Scranton City Council Member Gary Dibileo, and Current Mayor Chris Doherty. As one should expect of the Republican Party in Lackawanna County and their Chairman “Free Pass” Paul Catalano, there is no mention of a Republican candidate nor will there likely be one.

Doherty has done much tertiary-goodness in the City of Scranton. The article touches on that, but then draws the focus to the signature issue that could prove difficult for Doherty, the economy. The article mentions, nearly in passing, Doherty’s proclivities to constantly borrow money to pay the city’s current expenses. It fails to mention that, as a councilman, Doherty frequently railed against the administration and their debt.

It also mention’s Doherty’s infamous 25% tax increase. What it fails to mention is that Doherty promised a tax cut. (even if he did forget.) As a councilman, Doherty also raised taxes. At the time he said he had no choice.

Another criticism that didn’t make the cut was aired during the 2005 campaign. Gary Dibileo stated in a debate that there was a crime problem in Scranton. Mayor Doherty essentially denied a crime problem in Scranton. His staff has also denied increases in crime. This issue is tied with one of the issues that did garner ink, the Doherty’s inability to find common ground with the City’s municipal unions (Fire & Police.) As a Councilman, Doherty voted against the previous pact with the City’s unions.

At the end of the day, quality of life issues are what get people elected. As stated, Doherty has made surface-level changes in the City of Scranton that will be noticed. He has opened a new park or two and improved Nay Aug. Voters don’t seem to care much about borrowing, but they do care about taxes. Doherty raised them, but he did so long ago enough that most might have forgotten. His opponent will likely attempt to remind them.

As far as labor contracts are concerned, those intimately involved in the labor movement will care. The majority is not involved in labor and thus, will not. They will care about crime. If Doherty’s opponent is able to link the crime problem with an understaffed, unhappy police department, they might be able to make it stick.

The final issue that wasn’t addressed that could be an issue is how long Doherty will remain in office. The Scranton Times has advanced the idea that Doherty has future aspirations. If his aim is to become the 11th District Congressman, that would mean he could run during his first year in his newly re-elected office and then leave after just one year. Typically, the President of Council would become Mayor, Council would select a replacement, and a special election would be held to both fill the mayor and appointed council positions. The question needs to be asked of the Mayor if he will pledge to serve his full term.

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