Chuck Volpe: Crusader for the Public Good or Megalomaniac Millionaire (or Milgalomaniare)? It’s the question on barely anybody’s mind (minus three or four hundred political insiders, out of the tens of thousands of voters in the county).
Mr. Volpe’s brainchild: The Lackawanna County Study Commission. Its history is long and storied. Or maybe brief and short storied. Pummeled with pervasive ads last election cycle, voters decided to study our current form of government. I’m a teacher. I encourage studying. My students don’t do it enough, so I voted for it.
Not too long ago, the Commission released the results of their Study and we have before us the subsequent Solution to All Our Problems.
Currently, we have 3 full-time commissioners. Two form a majority and one is in the minority. The minority tends to be unable to do much and acts as a check (and gets a check for showing up despite being unable to do much). In the case of Bob Cordaro during the Corcoran-Castellani years, we heard very loud criticisms. The volume didn’t change when he got into the majority. During the Munchak-Cordaro years, Mike Washo offered his criticism of the administration. Currently under the Wansacz-O’Brien-O’Malley administration, everybody holds hands.
Citing corruption, the Commission wants to elect a single County Executive and a 7-member County Council. The Council would be regional and is outlined here.
More representation and more voices will always be a good thing for voters and constituencies. A larger size discourages, or at least makes it harder, for interest groups (which might not have the best interest of the average voter at heart) to control policy. Right now, if somebody wants something done (like the Yankees wanting a great deal on a team and a stadium) only two people need to be
bought convinced. It would be a little harder if we had a system that actually involves checks and balances.
The County Commissioners dislike this proposal because it would dismantle their current control of the system, so they set about using the County Copier to make sure there were some taxpayer-funded informational sheets decrying the Study Commission’s findings. It’s for our own good, people! Of course we should pay for it! (They can’t be expected to use their campaign funds for political purposes, after all.) And the state Ethics Commission told them they could! (Wait… wouldn’t the fact that they asked the Ethics Commission in the first place about this indicate they thought this could possibly be unethical? I better stop thinking before my head explodes.)
Here‘s what you paid for, if you’re interested. Allow me to take the time to critique the Top Ten list they offered (which is an obvious tribute to the soon-to-be-retired Dave Letterman):
1) The Study Commission wants MORE POLITICIANS.
Aside from TYPING IN CAPS FOR EMPHASIS, this is true. We’ll have a County Council where we had none before. But the implication is that politicians are bad. So… the County Commissioners are part of this sordid group. Shall we only have 1 elected official for the County?
2) The Study Commission wants MORE EXPENSE.
I’m pretty sure it’ll be cheaper. Three Commissioners becomes one Executive and a minimally-paid Council.
3) The Study Commission wants LARGER GOVERNMENT.
YOU ARE REPEATING YOURSELF. (See #1.)
4) The Study Commission wants LESS ACCOUNTABILITY.
Actually, by the very nature of a County Council/Executive form of government, there will be more accountability. You’ll have more eyes on the government. Right now, only Gary DiBileo, the County Controller, serves as a check or balance. We’ll have 7 people keeping an eye on the Executive and the County’s government.
5) The Study Commission wants FEWER CHECKS & BALANCES.
YOU ARE REPEATING YOURSELF. (See #4.)
6) The Study Commission wants to MARGINALIZE REPUBLICANS.
This would be a legitimate concern if Republicans weren’t already marginalized because, well, there aren’t many Republicans in the County. The minority Commissioner, who happens to be a Republican, can’t do much of anything as it is. But we’ve elected a Republican majority before in the form of Munchak and Cordaro, despite the overwhelming registration advantage Democrats have. History doesn’t support this argument. If the electorate wants to elect Republicans, the electorate can. And has.
7) The Study Commission wants to RETURN TO STATE CONTROL.
This argument involves the requisite splitting of the Clerk of Judicial Records into two offices. It’s an unfortunate byproduct, but can be remedied the way we remedied it back in the 70s: referendum.
8) The Study Commission wants to LIMIT VOTING RIGHTS.
I can still vote. If you’re registered, so can you. I don’t get it.
9) The Study Commission wants to CONSOLIDATE POWER.
On one hand: an Executive and a Legislative branch. On the other hand: combined Executive and Legislative. Which sounds like power is consolidated? If you said “Combined” you’d be right. And that’s our current system. Actually, we would be breaking a monopoly on power.
10) The Study Commission NEVER STUDIED CURRENT GOVERNMENT.
Actually, they did. They decided it was awful, and proposed an alternative.
Forgive the breeze-through, I know that reading can be tedious for our eyeballs. What irks me and inspired me to post is that the anti-Study Commission crowd often makes this personal. “Chuck Volpe runs the show. He’s got money. He’s buying votes.” Last I checked, I controlled my own brain (unless there are mind-controlling aliens nearby that are blocking my cognitive abilities). And I’m extraordinarily suspicious of money in politics. But these things aren’t relevant. There is a proposal that needs to be viewed according to its own merits. Mr. Volpe said he’s not going to run for the Executive. But let’s say he’s lying and he does run, who cares? We can vote for somebody else. (Like Pat O’Malley or Jim Wansacz or Corey O’Brien, for example.) Mitt Romney and his Republican Uber-Rich allies spent a fortune attempting to defeat President Obama. I do believe he won despite the money being thrown around to bring him down.
So, is Chuck Volpe a Crusader for the Public Good or a Milgalomaniare?
The answer is irrelevant. Vote your conscience after reviewing your options. Like we do with everything else.