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Thread summary:

Concerned citizen opinions on how to improve Luzerne County, cut back spending, lay off employees, promote downtown shopping and eating, revenue generating policies

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Old 11-16-2007, 08:37 AM
 
Location: Polish Hill, Pittsburgh, PA
29,636 posts, read 65,755,023 times
Reputation: 15129

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On Election Day incumbent Luzerne County Commissioners Gregory Skrepenak was re-elected by a landslide. Just a week later Mr. Skrepenak has now announced that the county is mired in debt. Altogether Mr. Skrepenak voted to borrow $93,500,000, which will cost county tax payers $160,100,000 as the principle and interest are repaid over the next 20 years. The 2007 budget will have a shortfall ranging from $13,000,000-$14,000,000. Nearly $20,000,000 of that $93,500,000 figure will be borrowed to finance this deficit alone.

Minority Commissioner Stephen A. Urban says the county needs to "go on a diet" by cutting spending and laying off employees, which I wholeheartedly agree with.

-For starters, why do I see two county-provided crossing guards everyday along River Street near the courthouse? Does Lackawanna County have crossing guards at its courthouse? No. Why then do we need them? What ever happened to looking both ways before crossing the street? Is that something that Lackawanna Countians can do while Luzerne Countians are too stupid to do? What ever happened to the notion that motorists on River Street are supposed to BY LAW yield to pedestrians entering the crosswalk? There's a flashing pedestrian signal, brightly-marked crosswalk, pedestrian clapboard sign, etc. here, so people by nature know to drive slowly through there and to expect pedestrians to be out and about. If the folks in Honesdale and Clarks Summit actually STOP to permit people to cross the street, then why can't motorists along River Street do the same? It seems foolish to be paying (at least) two men to be walking out into traffic with a stop sign in their hands. I cross busy streets all the time. Is it easy when local drivers are rude and won't stop for you? Of course not. Does that justify hiring several people to rectify? No.

-Is the luncheonette inside the courthouse currently running at a profit? Somehow I doubt it, given staff wages, utility costs, and the low price of the food there. Why, then, is it left open? If those attorneys, judges, clerks, etc. want to stuff their faces, let them do what students on my campus do and WALK TO A DOWNTOWN RESTAURANT. If those chowing down at the courthouse were forced to find somewhere else to eat, then perhaps La Toscana, Lowe's, Rodano's, Senunas's, S&W, Gonda's, etc. would see some more much-need revenues? More pedestrian foot traffic between the courthouse and downtown would help to encourage window-shopping as well, which would be encouraging to downtown merchants and prospective entrepreneurs. Why keep the courthouse cut-off from the rest of the neighboring downtown that needs all the help it can get? I'm sure employees at the Lackawanna County Courthouse patronize Brixx, Coney Island, Martini, Osaka, Sambuca, Banshee, and other downtown eateries, so why not Luzerne Countians as well?

-Just how much do major private, non-taxable institutions in the county provide to the county in lieu of taxes? This has been a hot topic recently in Scranton, where the University of Scranton's approximately $106,000 annual contribution to the city is scoffed at by city residents as being far too little. How much do King's, Wilkes, Misericordia, etc. provide to the county in lieu of taxes? I'd guess not much, even though speaking from a personal perspective the tuition fees their students pay are outrageous and should be more than enough for them to pay their fair share annually in terms of a gift in lieu of taxes. Has Mr. Skrepenak been aggressive in securing these revenue avenues?

These are just three ideas I came up with off the top of my head while I'm half-asleep, battling a cold, and with, as Dan would say, "No real life experience." Why can't Mr. NFL star think of cost-reduction and revenue-generating policies like these that will help the county to balance its annual budget. By eliminating the courthouse cafeteria, eliminating the crossing guards, and by urging local private institutions to step up to the plate, you could possibly shave nearly $1,000,000 off of that annual deficit, which would result in much less borrowing and a lower burden on the taxpayers once we can't borrow any more to balance the budgets and need to pay the piper.

I took the initiative to vote AGAINST a man who I see as having done very little to improve the quality-of-lives of Luzerne Countians, yet you all re-elected him by a landslide. Why? He's botched the prison deal (which will cost even MORE down the line), and his political advertisements patted himself on the back for CenterPoint, a project that not only did he have very little to do with, but also is a black eye onto the Greater Pittston community as the thousands of high-paying jobs that were promised have yet to materialize as traffic congestion and pollution only worsen here. I live 1/4-mile from this site, so trust me, I can already see the increase in gridlock with very little to show for it besides some more high school dropout jobs at warehouses and flex buildings when this land COULD have been utilized as a Wall Street West park like they're building in Monroe County that will attract plenty of lucrative, college-level, white-collar positions. For him to speak out about that project as being a major economic accomplishment really worries me. Even worse though is that you all BOUGHT IT!

When taxes have to be raised in 2008 or 2009 to offset the county's rising debt that was only exacerbated by his decision to borrow so many millions more, don't expect much sympathy from me. Stephen Urban has the right idea---too bad nobody ever listens to him.
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Old 11-16-2007, 09:12 AM
 
Location: Scranton
2,937 posts, read 2,920,638 times
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Typical NEPA, elect a football player...based on his accomplishments on the gridiron and little else. The same mentality that puts high school football players up on a pedestal, and builds multi-million dollar high school football stadiums, all the while ignoring academics.
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Old 11-16-2007, 09:34 AM
 
Location: Polish Hill, Pittsburgh, PA
29,636 posts, read 65,755,023 times
Reputation: 15129
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Originally Posted by conorsdad View Post
Typical NEPA, elect a football player...based on his accomplishments on the gridiron and little else. The same mentality that puts high school football players up on a pedestal, and builds multi-million dollar high school football stadiums, all the while ignoring academics.
I just don't understand it. While I know of some ex-high school football stars who have become professional standouts, I fail to see what made Mr. Skrepenak qualified to run this county based upon his football record alone. I can even recall when he was running for election the first time and used his football career as a crutch to show that he had the integrity needed to bring honesty back to government. No, Mr. Skrepenak. First off, HONESTY would have meant you'd have released the county's dire financial straits BEFORE Election Day instead of wiping your brow to know you dodged a bullet and then breaking the news. Also, what does being a professional football player have to do with running a county government? Yes, teamwork is always nice, but it serves no purpose if you don't showcase it by continually shutting our Mr. Urban's ideas just because he's a minority Republican in a county that is probably 70% urban and Democratic.

Hell, I have so many cost-reducing and revenue-generating strategies in my head that I would have likely made a better candidate than he did, with or without my "life experience" to back it up. It comes not only from the research I've done to benchmark the county's financial model to other similarly-sized counties that are NOT in red ink, but also from playing SimCity for hours upon hours on end and learning how to set various tax rates and ordinances in order to effectively balance budgets without forcing resentment from my constituents, which would send them packing out-of-town. Perhaps someone should buy Mr. Skrepenak a copy of SimCity for Christmas?

Then again, I suppose this is what happens when such an important and stressful job pays only $45,000 per year. How can we expect to attract well-educated, intelligent people to pursue that essential elected position when some STENOGRAPHERS with tenure make that much. For crying out loud Mayor Leighton makes nearly twice that amount to manage a city of 40,000 vs. the commissioners who manage a county with over 300,000 residents. Even Mayor Doherty of Scranton makes the same amount of money after donating some of his salary back to the city's coffers to help balance the budget. I know if I had my MBA or Ph.D., earning $45,000 at age 50 would be an insult, even for our relatively-suppressed salaries around here. Raising the commissioners' salaries would probably be one of the few cost-raising measures I'd want to pursue, as I feel as if the extra investment would be worth it if we could attract better-qualified people to run for that office, who may in turn save the county even more with their professional expertise in the long-run than the initial salary increase that was established to attract them.

After thoroughly researching this election I was disappointed with the choices for county commissioner. I knew I didn't like Skrepenak, so I didn't have much of a choice but to vote for Petrilla and Urban (or just not vote altogether to voice my displeasure).
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Old 11-16-2007, 09:35 AM
 
Location: Polish Hill, Pittsburgh, PA
29,636 posts, read 65,755,023 times
Reputation: 15129
Quote:
Originally Posted by conorsdad View Post
Typical NEPA, elect a football player...based on his accomplishments on the gridiron and little else. The same mentality that puts high school football players up on a pedestal, and builds multi-million dollar high school football stadiums, all the while ignoring academics.
At least you folks in Lackawanna County has an INTERESTING county commisioners race with four well-educated people who each had plenty of ideas. Even though Cordaro showed himself to be a cry-baby and a sore loser afterwards, he's still more qualified to run a county than Skrepenak appears to be.
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Old 11-16-2007, 09:49 AM
 
Location: Ashley
201 posts, read 470,663 times
Reputation: 143
These are just three ideas I came up with off the top of my head while I'm half-asleep, battling a cold, and with, as Dan would say, "No real life experience."
I can already see the increase in gridlock with very little to show for it besides some more high school dropout jobs at warehouses

Can I ask you a question? I know it is off topic but why do you keep using Dans name in your posts and quoting him? Do you want to start an arguement again? It seems to me that you are instigating it. Also, why do you constantly have to put blue collar workers down? I have worked in a warehouse for 15 years and I do have a college education. Many of the people I work with do so why don't you get off it already. In so many posts you sound so intelligent and when you say stuff like that it makes you look like a total jackass.
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Old 11-16-2007, 10:15 AM
 
1,245 posts, read 2,748,264 times
Reputation: 527
Quote:
Originally Posted by ScrantonWilkesBarre View Post
It comes not only from the research I've done to benchmark the county's financial model to other similarly-sized counties that are NOT in red ink, but also from playing SimCity for hours upon hours on end and learning how to set various tax rates and ordinances in order to effectively balance budgets without forcing resentment from my constituents, which would send them packing out-of-town. Perhaps someone should buy Mr. Skrepenak a copy of SimCity for Christmas??
.
You do make me laugh, thanks for that. Learning to run county govt, by playing Sim City. I'd be worried if you were serious. Wait, you're serious aren't you???

I am pretty good at playing an online nation sim game, I guess I'm ready to run a country. My son is an expert at Nascar 2007, I guess at 13 he is ready to get behind the wheel.
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Old 11-16-2007, 10:29 AM
 
Location: Scranton
2,937 posts, read 2,920,638 times
Reputation: 570
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lehigh Valley Native View Post
You do make me laugh, thanks for that. Learning to run county govt, by playing Sim City. I'd be worried if you were serious. Wait, you're serious aren't you???

I am pretty good at playing an online nation sim game, I guess I'm ready to run a country. My son is an expert at Nascar 2007, I guess at 13 he is ready to get behind the wheel.
The funny thing is though, that Skrep would probably have problems with Sim City. Maybe Super Mario Bros. would be more his speed.
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Old 11-16-2007, 11:38 AM
 
1,245 posts, read 2,748,264 times
Reputation: 527
Quote:
Originally Posted by conorsdad View Post
The funny thing is though, that Skrep would probably have problems with Sim City. Maybe Super Mario Bros. would be more his speed.
Yeah, I am still amazed at coal town politics. It is even more vile at the school board level.
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Old 11-16-2007, 02:19 PM
 
Location: Polish Hill, Pittsburgh, PA
29,636 posts, read 65,755,023 times
Reputation: 15129
Quote:
Originally Posted by ashley19 View Post
These are just three ideas I came up with off the top of my head while I'm half-asleep, battling a cold, and with, as Dan would say, "No real life experience."
I can already see the increase in gridlock with very little to show for it besides some more high school dropout jobs at warehouses

Can I ask you a question? I know it is off topic but why do you keep using Dans name in your posts and quoting him? Do you want to start an arguement again? It seems to me that you are instigating it. Also, why do you constantly have to put blue collar workers down? I have worked in a warehouse for 15 years and I do have a college education. Many of the people I work with do so why don't you get off it already. In so many posts you sound so intelligent and when you say stuff like that it makes you look like a total jackass.
The problem is that the ONLY employment options our area seems to attract are the blue-collar warehousing ones for forklift operators, delivery drivers, assemblers, etc. While that is fine and dandy for some in our area, why does NOBODY want to attract positions for I/T specialists, accountants, web developers, IST, systems analyst, pharmaceutical research, engineers, chemists, etc.? Skrepenak pats himself on the back like building a flex warehouse in Pittston Township where the average wage is $11/hr. is going to be the saving grace that stops our leak of college graduates from NEPA into NYC/NJ/Philly. What about attracting some of these other positions which might pay an average salary of around $50,000? If he worked to bring as many of THOSE jobs into Luzerne County as the $11/hr. ones, could you imagine how much better off our economy would be? I hate to break it to you Ashley, but someone with a Master's Degree in Information Services & Technology is NOT going to want to work at a warehouse sorting pallets for $11/hr. when they have tens of thousands of dollars in student debts to repay.

I don't mean to put blue-collar workers down, but I'm tired of blue-collar workers griping "there's no jobs in NEPA" when seemingly 99% of the positions in the classifieds and on Monster.com, for example, are blue-collar-oriented. The people who REALLY should be griping are those in the more white-collar high-tech, pharmaceutical, scientific, research, etc. communities. Name me one major pharmaceutical employer in Lackawanna or Luzerne Counties. Name me one major IT firm in either county. Name me one major scientific research outfit in either county. Name one biotech firm in either county. If Skrepenak wanted to make himself a "hero," then he should have brought THESE types of career options here to retain our college graduates. We don't all want to be cashiers, drivers, servers, or forklift operators our whole lives.

What steps has Skrepenak taken to position Luzerne County to be a major player in Wall Street West? I rest my case. Our region has the second-highest concentration of senior citizens in the nation thanks to the exodus of our youth. I'm sorry to say that I'm one of only VERY few in my accounting class who aren't moving to NY, NJ, or Philadelphia. This area is DEAD unless it can attract and retain its youth. Distribution centers, flex buildings, warehouses, etc. won't cut it. Good for you that you've found success with a college degree at a warehouse. May I ask if you're earning as much as you should be relative to others with your educational level and experience in other workplaces? Probably not.

I'll continue to be a thorn in the side until I see our open space being used for something OTHER than flex buildings, warehouses, and distribution centers. When firms like Pfizer, Microsoft, PwC, Apple, GlaxoSmithKline, Intel, etc. move here, then I'll shut up. Until then, I'm going to ask WHY NOT? I'm just sad that I have to keep on shedding tears as I say good-bye forever to more and more friends who are moving away to larger cities to work at firms just like these. My best friend is an IST major at PSU with ambitions to become an attorney specializing in Internet law. What options do you think she'd have around here? I'll probably have to say good-bye to her as well. It just isn't right that our elected officials continue to pat themselves on the back for "economic development" when all that are moving here are call centers, big-box stores, distribution centers, restaurants, and other jobs where you'd be LUCKY to earn $20,000-$25,000 annually. There's a REASON why our region earns so much less than the state and the national average, and it's due to this extreme scarcity of white-collar employment options.

P.S. I mentioned Dan again so that he wouldn't post a reply to this thread chastising me about being a know-nothing kid with no real life experience, as that has been and will probably continue to be every rebuttal he provides to me. I was simply trying to think ahead to what he might have posted in an attempt to "head him off."
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Old 11-16-2007, 02:26 PM
 
Location: Polish Hill, Pittsburgh, PA
29,636 posts, read 65,755,023 times
Reputation: 15129
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lehigh Valley Native View Post
You do make me laugh, thanks for that. Learning to run county govt, by playing Sim City. I'd be worried if you were serious. Wait, you're serious aren't you???

I am pretty good at playing an online nation sim game, I guess I'm ready to run a country. My son is an expert at Nascar 2007, I guess at 13 he is ready to get behind the wheel.

I was generalizing and being facetious. I know that being an expert at SimCity makes me about as qualified to run a county as an NFL star. (Oh wait, we've already established the fact that he has FAILED). I'm sorry, but I just can't help but be utterly disappointed that the voters spoke and overwhelmingly voted this guy back into office. Some of us don't have another four or six years to wait for a REAL candidate to be put into office while the incumbent plays house. Can Skrepenak bring our county ANY major employers besides distribution centers, call centers, warehouses, big-box stores, and restaurants? What about those of us who have ambitions of being able to comfortably raise children on ONE income with a white-collar position while our spouses/partners become stay-at-home dads or moms? Not everyone in the valley wants to work two jobs EACH while shoving their children in daycare in order to live comfortably.

ConorsDad and I have a lot in common. He was fortunate enough to obtain a position that permitted him to have enough income to have his wife stay at home and care for the family. I want to go out in the professional world and likewise earn enough so that my partner can be a great stay-at-home father, because like ConorsDad I see the importance in having parents more involved in the lives of their children. As long as people think Skrepenak is a "great commissioner" for bringing companies like TJ Maxx and Wal-Mart to Luzerne County, I'm screwed when it comes time to locate employment! Why earn my Master's Degree if I'm going to be a cashier at Wal-Mart or a forklift operator at TJ Maxx. It just doesn't make any sense.
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