Gary St. Fleur doesn’t buy the idea that “you can’t fight city hall.” He’s taking on the powers that be in his hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania, a small, depressed city that is wracked with high debt, high unemployment, and government profiteers who plunder overtaxed citizens.
St. Fleur, who formed the advocacy group Save Scranton, says that the city must declare bankruptcy to get out from under its many unaffordable, unsustainable liabilities.
But the town has refused. So he’s gearing up to take it to the voters with a Nov. 2017 ballot initiative that would give them the authority to force the city into bankruptcy.
He has started collecting signatures toward his goal of 4,200, twice the number needed to qualify for the ballot.
Gary St. Fleur’s activism is getting local media attention: his ballot initiative was mentioned during a Bloomberg Municipal Brief and in the opening of a Wells Fargo Securities report, Populism, Pensions and Municipal Distress.
This will be St. Fleur’s second major challenge to city authorities.
Earlier this year, he convinced more than 60 business leaders in town to sign a petition declaring their refusal to pay the town’s punitive Business Privilege Tax, which requires retailers, wholesalers, and other service providers to pay three percent of their gross receipts to the town.
A large portion of the city’s budget, as well as proceeds from its borrowing, fund bloated government-employee paychecks and perks, including city workers’ pensions and disability payments.
Scranton pays more than ten times the amount that similar towns in the state pay for retirees on disability. A stunning 50 percent of retired police officers and 58 percent of retired firefighters are on disability, costing the city over $5.2 million per year.
Save Scranton’s mission statement says, “We will not wait for the government to change things. The people of Scranton will determine the future of Scranton.”
Save Scranton website: SaveScranton.com.