In his latest ad, Republican Jim Mulligan hits Democrat Bill Courtright...HARD.
This is the kind of red meat rarely found in local politics...especially in Northeastern Pennsylvania where union support is typically held in high regard.
The ad claims that Courtright is bankrolled by the same police and fire unions that are threatening to sell Scranton's City Hall in order to get paid on a settlement they have against the city. It also makes an eye-opening contrast when comparing what the average Scranton resident makes with the full compensation of Scranton's police and fire fighters.
Courtright's website does tout endorsements from unions that typically bargain for police and firefighters. And, if Mulligan's claim is true that Courtright is bankrolled by these unions, it is understandable that he would question Courtright's loyalties.
This is the danger of the incestuous relationship between too many politicians and public-sector unions.
In a union negotiation with a city, there should be union officials representing their members on one side of the table and a mayor on the other side of the table representing the taxpayers. The mayor is supposed to negotiate in good faith with the public-sector union with the objective of getting the best deal for the taxpayers. Likewise, the union officials are trying to get the best deal for their members. The negotiation is balanced.
But, if a mayor isn't looking out for the taxpayers because his friends, supporters, and donors are sitting across the table from him or her, the taxpayers are sure to have a problem.
Even liberal Democratic President Franklin Delano Roosevelt opposed public-sector unions. In a letter, he said "All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service."
FDR's opposition aside, public-sector unions are a reality in Pennsylvania. Another reality is Scranton's incredibly under-funded city budget due, in large part, to the vast amount of funds dedicated to pay the compensation of Scranton's public-sector employees. This leaves Scranton with two options, raise your taxes or decrease your expenses and these two choices seem to be well represented in the two mayoral candidates.
One, Mr. Mulligan, appears to be very strong on the "decrease your expenses" side. He will however have to get the cooperation of Scranton's unions, Pennsylvania's legislature, or some combination of the two to do so.
The other, Mr. Courtright, appears to already have the support of Scranton's unions. He hasn't vocally called for raising taxes but he also hasn't demanded concessions from public-sector unions either leaving only the other option...raising taxes.