Home » Politics » Primary 2017: Scranton City Council

Scranton’s 2017 primary is a whole lot more fun than usual.  The city is doing a lot better these days (although if you’re Councilman Gaughan, it’s a hellscape), and the school district is falling apart.

Before you read, it’s important to note that I see the city as on the road to recovery, and I support that road.  By extension, I’m happy to be supporting candidates that want to maintain that course.  While inevitable criticism of the Sewer Authority sale is the #1 issue for anti-Courtright people, I’d be happy to debate it in another post or in the comments.  Suffice it to say, while the fees appear exorbitant, the deal has helped put the city on solid financial ground.  That, paired with the Parking Authority monetization, of which I was a part, helped some of the structural issues the city is dealing with.  Couple that with the fact the apartments can’t be built fast enough in the downtown and there is a vibrant and active community there tells you that Scranton is making a comeback.  I want politicians who support that.  On that note, I am happy to publicly endorse Pat Rogan, Paul Duffy, and Joe Wechsler.  That’s not an indictment of the other candidates (although not everything is hunky-dory in that department).  Instead, I simply believe these three will continue the forward momentum.

Note: As a general criticism of literally all of these candidates, I haven’t been able to find any websites with detailed policy proposals.  I have the luxury of having talked to some of them with regularity, so my evaluations are based on my relationships and interactions, what I’ve read in the media, and their public records.

Pat Rogan

As a Councilman, particularly in recent years, I’ve found Pat to be extraordinarily responsive and dedicated to the job.  While I disagree with his vote on the Parking Authority default, I agree with his willingness to support Mayor Courtright.  Pat often highlights his constituent services as one reason he deserves re-election, and I couldn’t agree more.  If I need something, Pat is always responsive.  That’s his reputation among the people I know and it’s been earned.

But what’s important to me is that he’s been working with the Mayor to move the city out of oblivion.  The main criticisms I hear of him is that he supported Trump.  I can disagree with people on issues and still (GASP) find yet other issues where there’s common ground.  Not agreeing with me doesn’t discount a person’s ability to serve.  In fact, Pat is a pleasure to debate with, because he can separate politics from the personal.  It’s increasingly rare these days.

Paul Duffy

Paul has been a stand-out on the School Board for a geek like me, who pays attention to the nitty-gritty.  He called the superintendent of the Erie School District to hear how they handled a similarly massive debt issue.  He’s been in touch with local state reps and our state senator to come up with solutions.  I’d love to see him stay on the School Board and continue his efforts, of course, but the city will benefit from his enthusiasm just as much.

Further, I think it’s actually important right now to have a bridge between the two government entities.  There are places both could join together to save money (joint purchasing, anybody?) and PJ could easily be a leader on that front.  He’s also proactive and engaged in a way that borderlines hyperactivity (this is absolutely a complement).  That’ll serve the city.

Joe Wechsler

I’ve known Joe for some years now and the best way to sum him up is this: Joe is simply guided by an overwhelming desire to serve the public.  He’s done a good job as the president of council, he hasn’t functioned as an obstructionist, his commentary is reasoned, and he’s another ally of the Mayor.  All of this is a recipe that makes him worthy of retention.

Cesar Reyes

I don’t know to much about Mr. Reyes, but I’m glad to see him run.  We need more diversity in our elected bodies and I’m sure he’s a herald of trends to come.  He’s mostly talked about strengthening business, which we can all get behind.  But like the others, there isn’t much in the way of details.

Bill Gaughan

Bill has never been anything but a gentleman to me and I quite like him as a person.  As a politician, he consistently opposes anything that comes out of the Mayor’s office.  That, in and of itself, isn’t a problem.  His calls for openness and transparency are to be admired.  What I do have a problem with is his lack of solutions.  Despite criticizing nearly every major proposal coming out of the Courtright administration, he has not proposed any comprehensive plans of his own.  Instead, it’s a pretty clear (and hollow) populist style of politics.  He sounds like the hero because he’s standing up to the system.  Frankly, it’s easy to complain.  It’s not easy to dig down and fix.  Anytime you read the paper, you get a pre-made quote for the media.  “This administration isn’t helping the people” etc.  That’s an easy thing to say.  But what alternative is there?  The closest thing I could find is that Gaughan wants to wait longer.  That’s not really a policy position, especially when the ship is sinking.  I understand that Councilman Gaughan has a lot of support out there and he’s earned it through this kind of rhetoric.  It just doesn’t do much for me.

Kyle Donahue

Donahue is a former Scranton School director who sat on the budget committee.   Electorally, he’s in a tough spot.  He got on the School Board during a special election in 2013 when he was chosen by the Democratic Party to fill a vacant position.  He ran against Roseann Novembrino for Controller in 2015 and lost.

I’ve always only ever had great interactions with Kyle on a personal level (which really just involves talking at various public events) but recently I wasn’t pleased with his recent attack on Rogan, which was cheap, I thought.  The attack was that Rogan had raised taxes, even though a mailer sent by a third party said he didn’t.  Note how Donahue didn’t bother to include Weschler in his attack, even though the mailer made the same mistake with him.  However, PACs and candidates can’t coordinate with each other.  Rogan did have a solid burn, noting this fact, saying in the Times, “I would think Mr. Donahue, having graduated with a degree in political science, would know that.”  Of course Donahue knows that.  He’s just attempting to depress Rogan’s total and boost his own.  It’s an effective, if cheap and misleading, political attack.  I hate this kind of stuff in politics.

In terms of policy, there isn’t much, based on what’s out there.  I see a lot about “fiscal responsibility” but that’s an amorphous phrase that anybody running for literally anything will espouse.  Most candidates for most races tend to be guilty of this, though (like I said above, I wasn’t able to find much in the way of specifics from anybody).

Prediction

I think it’s between Duffy, Rogan, Wechsler, and Gaughan.  I don’t know who the odd man out is, here.  Some people say Duffy, because he’s new to Council.  Some say Rogan, because of his Trump support (which I don’t think is a good argument).  Some say Wechsler because he’s run and lost so many times, he’s weak to begin.  Some say Gaughan, because he’s a constant naysayer and nothing else (I think voters like naysayers, so I don’t buy this one).

Donahue got onto the ballot because the Democratic Party put him there, and he had no success running for Controller 2 years ago.  Reyes is new to local politics and while I’d love to see Hispanic representation on Council, I think this run is a first step of a few.

Dunmore Bonus

I have absolutely no idea what the dynamics of the Dunmore Borough Council are, but I do know that Paul Nardozzi is running and I’ve worked with him on campaigns over the years (notably against the current Dunmore state rep, for example).  Here’s a link to his page!  Best of luck to him!

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