A recent letter to the editor, Pittston resident opposes change to city home rule (Oct. 24), demonstrated at best ignorance to the content in the charter or a blatant misleading attack on an essential tool to the future success of Pittston.
The writer stated that a strong mayor and strong city council system has served this city well. In fact, the current form of government is a strong council and weak mayor system. However, the city has benefited from a longstanding tradition of the city's mayor acting as a strong mayor without the institutional authority under the Third Class City Code.
The charter institutionalizes some of the authority that the mayor historically has assumed in serving as council president. Further misleading comments by the writer included the statement that Pittston residents are the highest taxed in Luzerne County. The only accuracy in that assertion is that city residents endure the highest real estate tax rate in the county. The high tax rate is directly attributable to the lower-than-average property values and corresponding property assessments in the city.
The administration of Mayor Jason Klush has not raised taxes since assuming office in 2010, and the proposed 2013 city budget reflects no tax increases. The Government Study Commission that authored the home rule charter focused upon reducing the burden of real estate taxes on owner-occupied homes, predominantly occupied by the city's senior citizens. The writer opposed to home rule misstated that the Third Class City Code has a cap on how much taxes can be raised and the amount that can be changed for permits and garbage fees. There is little or no accuracy in that statement; however, the Klush administration has been dedicated to not raising these user fees despite the pressure of increased fixed costs across the spectrum of municipal services.
An assertion that the city is moving to a strong manager system is a misrepresentation of the charter. The city administrator, according to the charter, is directly responsible to the mayor. The administrator is chosen on the basis of executive and administrative qualifications. The charter does assign the administrator significant responsibility over the day-to-day operation of the city government – including budgeting, personnel and purchasing – but this does not reduce the authority of the mayor and council.
Any representation that the charter is a power grab by certain city officials is without foundation. The study commission was careful not to alter any of the elected row offices over the next five years, and the Tax Collector/Treasurer's Office remains wholly unaffected by the charter.
The study commission would agree that Pittston's government has worked quite well over time, and the commission has worked diligently toward advancing the strengths of city government while wrestling with improving the structural deficiencies that fail to advance the progressive vision of the city's electorate. The city is clearly moving in the right direction with downtown revitalization, neighborhood stabilization and property maintenance and codes enforcement, along with the professionalization of public services. The charter is the single best tool for assisting the city's government to position itself to serve the needs of its stakeholders for the future.
To lower real estate taxes and improve public services, I urge all Pittston voters on Nov. 6 to vote YES on the home rule charter ballot question.
City of Pittston
A recurring theme in today's Republican propaganda is the accusation that President Obama is responsible for $700 billion in cuts to Medicare – or words to that effect. Surprisingly, this accusation is absolutely true. One way or another, Obama, Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney all have supported the $700 billion decrease in Medicare spending now expected under the Affordable Care Act.
In spite of the expected cuts in Medicare spending, Obamacare specifically calls for no reductions in benefits. It is a defined benefit plan. Most of the eventual savings come from reduced payments to health care providers in exchange for the anticipated reduction in the number of uninsured patients they serve.
Ryan's signature budget plan, his Path to Prosperity, envisions a massive overhaul of Medicare. It has been enthusiastically embraced by Republicans, including on several occasions by Republican presidential nominee Romney. It calls for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, except for its $700 billion reduction in the projected growth of Medicare. Typically, Romney has since disavowed any cuts to Medicare and promised to repeal Obamacare. Repealing Obamacare, should it be possible, actually represents a $700 billion increase in expected spending and, as such, blows a gigantic hole in Republicans' effort to reduce the deficit.
The promise to repeal Obamacare exposes what's at stake in this election. Although most of the campaign rhetoric is about taxes and jobs, health care is where the outcome of this election will have the most immediate impact on American families. Repeal will eliminate subsidies for people buying insurance and rescind regulations requiring insurance companies to guarantee coverage and benefits. The Republican replacement, a defined contribution plan based on vouchers, claims unproven savings and lacks critical detail. History and common sense promise increased Medicare costs for seniors under this plan.
The complexities of Obamacare suggest that most voters won't fully understand it. The biggest risk for the Romney-Ryan plan is that they will.
Obamacare will impose a tax on employers up to $3,000 per employee if its health benefits don't meet the federal government's definition of essential coverage. Penalties kill good jobs. Employers have been reluctant to hire new people, reduced the hours of full-time staff and laid off workers in anticipation of Obamacare's full implementation.
Michael Cannon of the Cato Institute states, A state that refuses to create an exchange will spare its employers from that tax, and will therefore enable them to create more jobs. According to Cannon, Obamacare does not and cannot mandate that states create exchanges, the new government bureaucracies that will compel Americans to purchase insurance. Insurance companies stand to benefit from hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies.
The Obama administration's Health and Human Services mandate violates the religious freedom of Christians by forcing religious employers to provide coverage for contraception, sterilization and chemical abortion that they consider immoral. By refusing to set up exchanges, states are protecting religious freedom.
Obamacare violates your freedom to choose your medical care.
I thank the local police, fire, EMS, public works and emergency management personnel for their exemplary performance during the Hurricane Sandy emergency. Both career and volunteer personnel worked long, tiring hours preparing for, responding to and cleaning up after the storm. Fire, rescue and EMS personnel provided many volunteer hours serving their community.
In Wyoming, our volunteer fire department staffed both stations and provided an additional paramedic unit in addition to a volunteer EMS crew. Our department of public works worked throughout the weekend, clearing leaves from the roadways, keeping drains clear during the storm emergency and preparing for the cleanup afterward. Our police department had extra personnel on duty to assist during storm-related emergencies.
Finally, I must acknowledge and thank the residents of Wyoming and surrounding communities for their cooperation and assistance during this emergency. Residents helped their neighbors in preparing for the storm and cooperated with curfews and other emergency instructions. Many people volunteered their time and energy to assist during this storm.
On behalf of borough council and myself, we appreciate the effort shown by everyone. Clearly, by working together as a community, we can overcome difficult circumstances.