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Mayor Christopher A. Doherty
Scranton, PA / Pop. 72,861 / Elected 2001

“The strength of a city is the combustion engineering that takes place inside it.”

— Mayor Christopher A. Doherty

Alon Levy on 04.21.08

Sure cities are coming back - just not Scranton. The Northeast has three productive city regions: New York, Philadelphia, and Boston. Washington and Baltimore look productive, but actually live off of federal subsidies. For example, the New York CSA paid $93 billion in taxes more than it got back in spending in 2004. For the Washington-Baltimore CSA, it was $67 billion in the other direction.

Outside New York and Chicago, the cities that are coming back in the US tend to be suburbs. Washington D.C. keeps losing population; the growth is in the edge cities in Arlington and Fairfax County. Philadelphia proper is more like Brooklyn than like Manhattan in its importance to the region.

That's why I like the program espoused by the Mayors of Trenton and Jersey City... it comes off as something that could promote real deslumming and prevent sprawl, as opposed to gentrification, which merely relocates the problem elsewhere.

Harry Moroz on 04.21.08

Thanks for the comment, Alon.

Despite its past struggles (which include being declared a "distressed city"), Scranton remains an important city in Pennsylvania. Scranton generates the sixth largest share of GDP in the state and contains the fifth largest share of the state's jobs (4.5%). That said, Scranton's population, as measured by the Census Bureau has continued to decrease. However, arrival of Hispanic immigrants to Scranton might have mitigated some of these population losses and Mayor Doherty told us that he expects the Hispanic population to rise to as much as 20% of Scranton's total. Scranton can quite plausibly be thought of as a suburb of New York City. (See here for a Brookings report on Pennsylvania's cities.)

I think that your points, as well as Mayor Doherty's, demonstrate the need for a broader discussion of urban issues. The question remains: how do we encourage policymakers to focus on cities - including medium-sized ones and especially postindustrial ones - as solutions to problems associated with climate change, globalization, and economic ferment. Scranton has benefited from outside investment and from its own investment in infrastructure; that is to say, the city is not "going away" any time soon. So, how do we encourage Scranton to be (or become) an economically, demographically, and environmentally stable suburb of New York City?

Alon Levy on 04.21.08

I don't think Scranton is yet a suburb of New York. Lackawanna County's commuting ties with the New York metro area are weak. The Census Bureau has a data sheet about commuting ties between each pair of counties. Lackawanna County had 94,532 commuters in 2000; of these, 642, or 0.68%, work in the New York MSA. That's not much stronger a commute tie than Connecticut's Hartford County's to New York; if Fairfield County were included in the New York MSA, Hartford County would have a stronger commute tie.

Although the exurbs of New York are beginning to encroach on Scranton's suburbs, there's little chance Scranton will ever become a suburb of New York. The distance between the two cities is 200 kilometers, which even without traffic is too long for a car commute. The range of a rail commute is very short: the Tokyo metro area, which is based entirely on heavy rail, extends about 50 kilometers from its central ward, Chiyoda. 50 kilometers from Lower Manhattan gets you about as far as Hicksville, White Plains, Edison, and Morristown. Beyond that distance, taking the train is possible, but the commute will become too long to be feasible.

Besides, don't we want people living closer to where they work rather than farther away?

Fed-up on 07.14.08

Illegal immigration hurts the city of Scranton. It gives jobs to illegals instead of U.S. citizens and these jobs Americans will do. construction,warehouse jobs, cleaning jobs,who did these jobs before the illegals high school kids college kids,older people can't afford to stop working,woman who can only work part time.Scranton is starting to displace it's people(You know the ones who pay your salary) You have turned this city in a sanctuary city the price is high i hope you will be ready for the faud, and gangs. When people of Scranton are losing their jobs to the illegals the price will be higher. The lose of your job.

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Mayor Christopher Doherty: “Cities are like engines”

Mayor Christopher Doherty of Scranton, Pennsylvania believes that Americans understand the important role that cities play for the economic and social prosperity of the United States. But he notes that no presidential candidate and, indeed, no leader at the national level is a fervent advocate for cities. This means that urban centers are still plagued by unfunded federal mandates that compel cities to fund policies implemented at the federal level, forcing mayors to divert resources from important local programs. This means, as well, that the lack of investment that contributed to the levy breaches during Hurricane Katrina – Mayor Doherty emphasizes that the levees should have been fixed so that a disaster could never occur – still persists.

“We know what the problems are in this country,” Mayor Doherty insists. “People know that you have to invest in cities. We’re waiting for someone to actually say it. We are waiting for someone to actually have the guts to come out and do it. The three candidates that are running for president now are all extremely talented and are very bright people. But there isn’t one of them who is really stepping away from the crowd to say, hey, we should go in this direction and we should do it.”

Mayor Doherty considers urban environments to be “combustion engines” where commerce flourishes and the exchange of ideas thrives. To facilitate this vital economic and social activity, cities must use taxes to fund the economic development and infrastructure projects that make cities desirable places to live and increase property values for residents. Mayor Doherty, though mindful of the heavy lifting involved in attracting federal funding for large-scale urban development projects, is optimistic. “Cities,” he says, “are coming back.”