Scranton isn’t the greatest place to live. There’s little to no sun 8 to 9 months out of the year. A high percentage of the population is impoverished. There’s not much employment opportunity. It costs as much to park downtown as it does in New York, thanks to the recent lease of the meters to shore up debt incurred for the off street parking system. Scranton is regularly referred to as part of a punchline on television and in movies. And, the local government, for decades, has been mismanaged, malfeasance, inept, or down right corrupt. The loss of industry, and manufacturing jobs to cheaper foreign labor markets has lead to a decline in population, and a diminishing tax base. The decrease in tax revenue, and the increase in cost of government, with all its inefficiency, and failed investments, has resulted in massive debt. There seems to be no consensus on what the figure is. Upon being questioned on the issue city council has been consistently evasive. The city’s debt amounts to a millstone that taxpayers can’t carry. With the finalized sale of the SSA the city’s assets are gone. Increased taxes, and fees make it possible for government to operate as it has while taking tiny chips from the stone that will inevitably crush us into insolvency. Yet they press on with this plan as if it could possibly lead to a recovery for Scranton’s economy.
Recently, I was walking thru town, and I came upon a disheveled motorist, mumbling to himself in a car. ( Growing up, I thought there has to be more desperate, lonely souls walking the streets of Scranton, talking to themselves than any place else in the country. At least top five per capita ). As I walked past he turned to me and said, emphatically, “Careful, it’s a set up!” ” Alright man, I’ll be careful.”
The kooks warning stayed with me, and struck me as some what synchronistic. There seems to be a growing general awareness that we’re all being setup. Hoodwinked into giving more of our hard won earnings for the promise of progress, or security, or recovery. People aren’t buying it anymore, but remain frustrated by the absence of a clear solution.
There was a study last year published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, titled Unhappy Cities. The study, based on self reporting, ranked Scranton as unhappiest region in the country. While I’m aware that poor quality of life leaves many in the city feeling discontent, I’m not unhappy. Any place is what you make it. This attitude is shared by many of my friends who call this place home, and just want to have successful businesses, go to work and raise families, and instill values and ideals like integrity, and a good work ethic.
To our credit, Scrantonians are resilient, and we have an ability to tolerate, and make the most of less than ideal conditions. That doesn’t have to mean an acquiescence to abuses of power. I think it goes without saying that the city’s residents want to see their community thrive. Together, if we take an active interest, maybe there’s something we can do to make that a reality. The city needs a fresh start