First Posted: 5/22/2014
Lackawanna County Commissioner Patrick O’Malley was “optimistic” that voters would elect to keep the three- commissioner format of government in the county leading to Election Day on May 20, but also knew that nothing is a guarantee.
The commissioners weren’t comfortable until after they received the results from the Keyser Valley Community Center, and were up about 70 votes.
“I though the city might be a little weaker than the outskirts,” O’Malley said, “but the results came in pretty good everywhere. This referendum wasn’t about myself, or Corey, or Jim. It was about what form of government the public wanted: the current form or a bigger government.”
The three-commissioner system was retained after receiving over 6,500 more votes than a proposed Optional Plan of County Government, which would have consisted of a seven-member legislative council, elected by district, and an elected county executive with veto power.
“I think it was more about the people of Lackawanna County making up their minds that the three commissioner format of government, that has existed for 135 years, is good government,” O’Malley said.
While O’Malley was pleased with the final results, he welcomed the challenge from the opposing group.
“I know a lot of people on that committee,” he said. “Some are friends, some I know professionally, and I respect anyone who runs for public office.
“The people in Lackawanna County felt the commissioner system of government is the right system.”
O’Malley doesn’t believe PNC Field, home of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders Triple-A baseball team, would have been a reality if a bigger government was in place.
“I think one of the shinning stars of of three commissioner format under our administration is PNC Field,” he said. “If there was a council form of government, I don’t think it would have ever come to be. It was a very big undertaking and one of many big decisions we’ve been involved in. The three of us came together and realized that baseball in Lackawanna County was something that was needed for the community.”
One of the main reason O’Malley believes the current system is more effective deals with communication between the decision makers.
“It’s easier to deal with just two other personalities than eight other personalities,” he said.
According to O’Malley, the success of any type of government will be determined by the character of the individuals making the decisions.
“I ran for this position in 2011 because I believe in this kind of government,” he said. “Ultimately, it comes down to the fact that good people do good things and bad people do bad things.”
Luzerne County residents voted in 2012 to replace a 150-plus-year-old form of government with 11 elected council members and an appointed county manager.
Clarks Summit Mayor Patricia Lawler publicly opposed the change in Lackawanna County.
“Luzerne County is so close to home, and being neighbors, we read and hear that many wish they didn’t make that change and had stayed with the three-commissioner system,” Lawler told The Times Leader. “Our perception here is that many Luzerne County voters are anxious to have the opportunity to vote again to return to the commissioner system.”