Mayor Chris Doherty fires back on McCain 'tweet'
By Roger DuPuis II (Staff Writer)
Published: December 19, 2009
Mayor Chris Doherty wants Sen. John McCain to visit Scranton so he can see how federal funding is used to promote job creation and livability in the Electric City.
And no, Mr. Doherty did not "tweet" his invitation to the Arizona Republican.
"The federal funding we receive has helped put our city back on track," Mr. Doherty wrote in a letter to Mr. McCain on Friday, responding to a Dec. 12 post on the Twitter social networking site, in which the senator cited "$292,200 (for) elimination of slum & blight in Scranton, PA" as among "a few outrageous projects."
A spokeswoman for Mr. McCain said Friday that it was unlikely that he would be able to take up the mayor's offer anytime soon due to an exceptionally busy schedule, particularly while health care reform is being debated.
"Senator McCain is always willing to discuss issues with local officials," Brooke Buchanan said. But seeing how the money is spent misses the point, she cautioned.
"It doesn't matter what project it is. He's not questioning the merits of the project," Ms. Buchanan said. "He's questioning how the spending is allocated."
"He doesn't support earmark projects in Arizona," she added.
If so, Mr. McCain's injection of levity while making his point added insult to the city's injury.
In his tweet, the senator alluded to NBC's Scranton-set sitcom "The Office," asking whether star Rainn Wilson, a fellow Twitter user, was responsible for the appropriation.
"I suppose I can understand the humorous intent of highlighting a project intended to benefit the home of the fictional Dunder Mifflin," Mr. Doherty wrote. "Believe me, no one gets more laughs out of 'The Office' than we do here in Scranton.
"However, the work we're doing to keep our city livable and family-friendly is very real," added the mayor, who questioned whether referencing the TV star "was, perhaps, simply an effort to get Mr. Wilson to note your tweet to his more than 1.7 million followers."
Mr. McCain's objections to billions of dollars' worth of earmarks have been covered nationwide, with Scranton's blight money cited in numerous stories about the senator's ongoing anti-pork crusade.
Fox News noted Scranton's blight money in a list of items underlined not just by Mr. McCain but by groups such as Citizens Against Government Waste, including such items as $655,000 for equipment at the Institute for Irritable Bowel Syndrome Research in Los Angeles and $750,000 for exhibits at the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates in Iowa.
"My top priority is fighting for Pennsylvania," said Sen. Bob Casey. The Scranton native worked with fellow Sen. Arlen Specter and Rep. Paul Kanjorski, D-11, Nanticoke, to include the cash for Scranton. "I secured this funding to remove blight, make our streets safer and increase property values."
Mr. Doherty said he couldn't comment on how other communities were spending their money, only that he stands by what the city will do with it.
"Cities like Scranton built this country ... and they all have these infrastructure issues. Blight removal is one of the typical issues that older industrial cities face," Mr. Doherty said. "We pay taxes, and those tax dollars we expect to come back to the cities and towns in America."
I just have this mental image of McCain going, "Why does Scranton need money to fix blight? It looks so pretty on 'The Office'!"