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League of Women Voters suppress millennial vote by refusing to live stream political debate

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The League of Women Voters of Lackawanna County refuse to live stream a political debate on Wednesday (October 25) between the mayoral candidates in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Better than the Weekend was granted access to stream the debate on Facebook Live before having that right revoked 24 hours later in a seemingly useless dictatorial move that has candidates and voters speaking out.

As the editor of a news organization headquartered in Scranton, I’ve noticed a void in political coverage that captures the attention of millennials in regards to the future of their city. In an effort to fill that void and encourage young people to get involved in their local government, I planned to stream the debate live on our site’s Facebook page. Since 61 percent of Better than the Weekend’s readers are between the ages of 18 to 34, I hoped the live stream could stimulate the deficient voter turnout. Only 20 percent of registered voters in Scranton voted for a mayoral candidate in the primary election last May. That’s 11 percent lower than the average turnout throughout Lackawanna County.

Millennials need to be spoken to on their level. We’re a generation that is connected, engaged and fueled by strong convictions. We respect ourselves. We accept people who are different than us. We fight for what we believe in. We love our freedom.

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Still, we’re often left out of the conversation. Based on the actions by the League of Women Voters, it’s seemingly deliberate.

The LWV’s rationale for invalidating our already agreed upon coverage was attributed to an exclusive agreement with a public access television station called ECTV, which is only available to Comcast users. Thirty percent of millennials don’t even have cable . Having an exclusive media contract with a public access station that basically nobody has ever heard of makes the event less accessible. Even though the LWV says they post the debate in its entirety on YouTube at a later date, many millennials don’t even know the debate is happening. The 2013 mayoral debate only has 360 views on YouTube.

Instead, the LWV is choosing to cut a bulk of Scranton voters out of the conversation by not capitalizing on all of the social media platforms available. An August 2017 Pew Research Center study found two-thirds of U.S. adults get news from social media. (No such study was available for public access television.) Overall, Facebook fiercely leads the pack, outstripping all of the other social media outlets when it comes to where people get their news. Having the mayoral debate only stream on YouTube at a later date is very restrictive, considering only 18 percent of all American get their news from YouTube compared to 48 percent of Americans who stay informed on Facebook.

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If the LWV is honestly committed to educating and engaging voters, as claimed on their website, they would gladly open this debate to any media outlet wishing to stream it live on Facebook. There’s an enthusiastic gap in voter turnout and I want to bridge that gap. If millennials aren’t being reached through outlets the LWV has already been broadcasting the mayoral debate, then they need to reach them on a platform they have more access to and not hold this public debate hostage. If they’re so out of touch, they should change their name to the League of Nana Voters, grab some yarn, move to Daytona, and just retire and make blankets for their grandchildren.

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I’m not the only one confused by the act of voter suppression.

Roy Thomas, a disabled veteran who served in the Navy, is a Scranton voter who is rightfully pissed.

“It’s a huge slap in the face to people who fought for every American to have rights, especially people who are disabled from fighting for those rights, to see people like the League of Women Voters block these rights,” he said.

Thomas, who is unable to attend the taping due to being disabled, also said: “If other people can go see it live, and someone is willing to live stream it so someone who is disabled like me can see it, then why would you stop that from happening? I don’t care if it’s being posted at a later date. I want to see it live. I saw so many clips of Trump saying ridiculous things, but when I saw it unedited, it wasn’t the same. How do I know they won’t edit anything when they have the opportunity to have it streamed live?”

A spokesperson from Mayor Bill Courtright’s reelection campaign said the mayor is “absolutely in favor” of making the debates as accessible as possible and has no objection to Better than the Weekend, or anyone else, live streaming the debate.

Jim Mulligan, the Republican nominee for mayor, called the LWV’s decision to restrict live streaming on Facebook “ridiculous” and “inappropriate” over a phone call Sunday afternoon.

“Aren’t we supposed to be an open and honest democracy?” Mulligan said. “Millennials are part of this city, too. We need to do everything we can do that can get them involved and inspired to take action in the city.”

Gary St. Fluer, a write-in candidate, is furious.

“Why would the footage be uploaded at a later time when it can easily be streamed live? It seems like [the League of Women Voters] are part of a world that doesn’t represent the world we live in and where we’re going.”

Scranton voter Rebecca Hoover agrees that the LWV’s decision proves they’re out of touch.

“The League of Women Voters is obviously a group of old ladies who don’t know what the fuck they’re doing,” Hoover said. “Why are they fighting so hard to not have this event live on Facebook? It just doesn’t make sense. They’re not being transparent. They should lose their charter. They already lost my trust.”

The local and national LWV did not respond to emails or voicemails asking how the decision is in best interest for the voters.

News of the decision has lead to the LWV Facebook page rating to drop from 5 stars to a 1.7 rating. The decision also ignited an outpour of messages expressing disagreement with the League of Nana Voters.

The League of Nana Voters is standing strong with their decision to limit access and not reach as many voters as possible — even though all candidates have reached out directly to them to express they have no issue with live streaming by any reporting group. Following backlash, they appear to be grasping at straws and searching for ways to justify their actions. In a Facebook post, the LWV told St. Fleur that they do not allow live streaming due to possible Wi-Fi outages.

Courtesy Gary St. Fleur

If this was the issue with live streaming, why did the League of Nana Voters not tell me this to begin with, and then offer me the chance to film it. Come to think of it, there’s a possibility of a technical difficulty with the one camera they have there, which could benefit one candidate over the other. Right? This is what grandma’s grasping at straws looks like, boys and girls.

Better than the Weekend has decided to host its own town hall debate on Wednesday, Nov. 1. where millennials get to ask the questions and anyone can pull out their phone and live stream it. More information will be revealed soon on Facebook. If you’d like to participate, please email you name, cell phone number, and question for the candidates to justin@betterthantheweekend.com.

I want to be clear that this is not the type of story I was hoping to run about the debates in Scranton. I wasn’t looking for special attention. Let’s be honest. I didn’t choose to cover a local mayoral debate because I thought it would get me 10,000 new followers or make me the next Van Jones. I did this for the voters. All around the world, people look to America and are inspired by our ambition for freedom of speech and all of the liberties we stand for. Don’t let someone take away your right to know what’s going on in government. Speak up.

In the words of Woodrow Wilson: “Liberty has never come from the government. Liberty has always come from the subjects of it. The history of liberty is a history of resistance.”

Be heard by participating in our town hall and by calling the League of Women Voters National Headquarters at 202.429.1965 to request a suspension of their title and public apology to voters.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Gregory

    October 24, 2017 at 5:38 am

    The LWV has been the ONLY source of open debate for decades. For that, it deserves much credit. It’s a small group of volunteers of which I am a member. I’m a 37 year old male. Local, mainstream news should be embarrassed at their lack of political coverage especially by not hosting debates or town halls.

    While I’m quick to defend the LWV for the great things it has done for democracy in Lackawanna County, I also would like to see the debates live streamed. City Council is responsible for legislation, so I would suggest addressing them at their next meeting to get to the bottom of the exclusivity agreement.

    The exclusivity agreement with Comcast is likely rooted in the funding of ECTV. I don’t know all the details, but I also disagree with the city’s monopolistic contract with Comcast.

    I look forward to your town hall.

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20 Questions with NFL QB Matt McGloin

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Photo Courtesy Matt McGloin Charity Golf Tournament

Matt McGloin is a hero in his hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania — and not just because he went on to become a starting quarterback for Penn State who made it to the NFL. The Kansas City Chiefs QB isn’t forgetting his roots. McGloin is using his platform to raise money with an annual charity event focused on improving the lives of people in need throughout Northeastern PA, a region that could greatly benefit from the influence of an idol beyond the legendary Michael Scott and sea of The Office GIF’s circulating the internet.

The third annual Matt McGloin Charity Golf Tournament will tee off Sunday, July 16.  Better than the Weekend played a game of 20 Questions with the QB before the event.

What inspired you to launch this event? My father was president of Lackawanna Little League for a long time. Him and my mom were always raising money for the little league. I grew up watching them help raise money and help out in any way they could. I always knew I’d do something like that, too. And Scranton is where I grew up. The area is important to me. I want to help make the community stronger.

Can people still register? Yes. Absolutely. They can visit the Facebook page or call 570-604-3315.

How much money has your charity raised so far? Almost $40,000.

When you’re not in season, what do you miss most about the city of Scranton? The food.

Who has the best pizza in Scranton? Maroni’s.

Who has the best wings in Scranton? Rep’s.

Where’s your favorite place to hang out in Scranton? At home with family and friends.

A Scranton coach was accused recently of bullying his players, igniting a debate of how tough a coach should be on a student athlete. What coaching style did you experience as a student and how did it impact you? I think what it comes down to as a coach, and I can say this because as a quarterback you’re somewhat a coach on the field, there’s a different way to talk to everybody. As a coach, you need to understand that. Not everybody has the same attitude. Not everybody has the same personality. You may be able to yell at one guy and it may help him get the job done after you yell at him but the other guy may not respond in the right way to that. You have to know how to talk to them to get the best out of them. It’s a coaches responsibility to take the time to learn about each and every one of the players and how they respond to coaching. At the end of the day, we’re all there to win.

What’s the best advice you ever got? My mom always told me to have no regrets. That would be the best advice I ever got.

What advice would you give your 18-year-old self? I’d tell myself there’s gonna be good days and there’s gonna be bad days, but everything is gonna be alright and I’m gonna get through it.

Photo Courtest Matt McGloin Charity Golf Tournament

What advice would you give student athletes who dream of going pro? You have to make sacrifices. You gotta get your practice in. Maybe you might not be able to go to the beach for a week. Maybe you can only go for two days. But making sacrifices is something you need to know and be willing to accept.

If you weren’t playing football, what would you be doing? Well, I have a degree in broadcast journalism. I think I’d like to be a sports analyst. Sports in general have always been a big part of my life. Growing up, I went baseball, football, basketball, right in a row. Non-stop.

Photo Courtesy Matt McGloin Charity Golf Tournament

What’s something people might be surprised to know about you? I’m pretty low-key. When I get some free time, I enjoy it. I like to sit on the couch and watch movies and take my dog for walks.

Liquor or beer? Beer. Anything Sam Adams.

What’s something every guy should try at least once in his life? Travel the world.

Football players have been under a lot of scrutiny by taking a knee. Reactions ranged from support to open contempt from President Trump and the NFL ultimately banning the act of protest. Do you support the right to take the knee or do you stand with the NFL’s decision?  I stand for the National Anthem. I’ve never taken a knee and I never would take a knee. Personally, I don’t think politics should be involved in sports. I have a job to do. I’m part of the Kansas City Chiefs. I will do what I’m told to do. That’s what I believe in.

McGloin was named the most outstanding walk-on player in the country in 2012. | Photo Courtesy Matt McGloin Charity Golf Tournament

What’s your favorite quote? ‘Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.’

How has the money raised from your charity been used to help people in Northeastern PA? The whole idea of the charity is to keep all of the money donated in Northeastern Pennsylvania. We helped provide medical assistance to a young kid that had cancer. We threw a Christmas brunch and gave gifts to 180 veterans at the Gino Merli Veterans Center. We handed out over 400 turkeys to families around the holidays. We helped provide dental care services for more than 7,000 underprivileged children in the community. And we’re just getting started.

Photo Courtesy Matt McGloin Charity Golf Tournament

Where is the event taking place? Glen Oak Country Club in Clarks Summit.

What helps you get through the week? I want to earn my days off. I work extremely hard during the week in the weight room, conditioning, throwing the football, doing workouts, studying the playbook, stuff like that, so I can feel like I earned my time off on Saturday and Sunday. There’s something about that sense of satisfaction from knowing you had a great lift this week or a great throwing session and feeling like you worked really hard during the week.

For more information on the golf tournament, click right here and head over to the official Facebook page

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‘I served in the Armed Forces, stop assuming we all have PTSD’

Earl Granville

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My name is Earl. I’m a retired solider of the U.S. Army. I lost my leg in June 2008 from a roadside bomb while leaving a site to build a school in a village in Afghanistan. Now please stop assuming I have PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder).

When it comes to our Armed Forces, society assumes we all have PTSD. Once, an organization asked if I wanted to go on a hunting trip. The person on the other line said: “We can help you with your PTSD.” I then asked: “What makes you automatically assume I have PTSD?”

There was some awkward silence.

Needless to say, I didn’t go on that hunting trip. Hunting was never really my thing anyway.

Now do I acknowledge that PTSD is a real problem that affects many of our Armed Forces? Absolutely. However, part of raising awareness around post-traumatic stress disorder is helping people realize that it’s not just a military issue. I truly am humbled the way society looks after our Armed Forces now compared to 40 years ago. I just wish people would stop putting a blanket over us and assume we’re all the same. PTSD is obviously real, but anybody can struggle with thoughts of past experiences, not just our Armed Forces community.

There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about the day I lost my leg. I remember gaining consciousness after being knocked out only momentarily. I remember two MEDEVAC choppers coming — one to carry me and an Afghan governor and another to carry the remains of my comrades SPC Derek Holland and MAJ Scott Hagerty. I remember thinking my life was going to end.

Personally, I stopped letting it control my life.

I stopped labeling myself as a victim and looked for a new purpose after the uniform came off. I started challenging my amputation with more and more goals I’d make for myself, even some that were included in honor of Derek, Scott, and my late twin brother, Army SSG Joe Granville, who took his own life in 2010. It started to take my mind off of the adversities that happened in my life, and eventually I started helping those in situations similar to mine and assisting them in reaching their goals.

To my brothers & sisters in arms: All I ask of you is to take off the Dysfunctional Veteran shirt and move forward and continue to be something great. Don’t let the dark days define the rest of your life. Step out of your comfort zone, filter out the bad in your life, and be a part of something that makes a difference again, just like you once did in uniform.

The Armed Forces culture taught us to be a warrior, and some of that training and experience, good or bad, will stick with us for the rest of our lives. Remember, no matter what you experienced, the world doesn’t owe us anything. Put the self-ego away, be prideful of that small, but possibly heavy time in your life, and continue to have that Warrior Spirit and understand if that heavy plate still holds you down, you don’t have to carry it alone. Whether it’s from a professional or a close friend, you know you don’t have to hold it by yourself.

As society, military or not, we should all carry that weight together. We’re human; and as humans we are going to face heavy times in our lives, military or not.

Earl Granville is a nine-year veteran as an infantryman in the Army National Guard, with two combat deployments and one peace keeping. He is retired holding the rank of Staff Sergeant with awards such as Bronze Star, Purple Heart and the Combat Infantryman Badge. He is a graduate of Lackawanna College and working on his undergrad at the University of Scranton. He travels the country as a public speaker discussing healthy ways to battle adversity and continuing to find a purpose after a door closes. Earl is a team member for the military non profits Operation Enduring Warrior and Oscar Mike. Follow his journey on Facebook. 

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Damn Scranton, Back at It Again with the Questionable Taxes!

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As perilously as a sorority girl relying on iced coffee to keep her life together on a Monday morning, the city of Scranton is calculating nefarious taxes on just about any thing and any one they can to safeguard its seemingly incompetent leadership.

Scranton’s latest target: John Basalyga. The entrepreneur was billed earlier this month an overwhelming $254,920.80 for questionable taxes on a parking garage he owns in downtown Scranton. (And here I was pissed off about my Comcast bill. I’m definitely counting my blessings now.)

Anyways, here’s what we know:

  1. Basalyga bought a parking garage in September 2016.

  2. The garage was a tax-exempt property when it was purchased.

  3. The Lackawanna County tax assessor’s office admittedly allowed the privately owned parking garage to remain tax-exempt since 2017.

  4. When a Scranton resident complained at a city council meeting earlier this month about the garage remaining tax-exempt, the tax assessor’s office decided to change the garage’s classification from exempt to taxable.

  5. Even though the garage was just changed from a tax-exempt property to a taxable property less than two weeks ago, a bill for 2017 and 2018 was sent, including late fees, so high that it could afford to buy all 402 Scranton High Class of 2018 graduates three pairs of Yeezys and still have money left over.

Now that sounds like a foolishly large amount of taxes for less than a year and a half — unless the city knows something about the property that no-one else knows, like Pablo Escobar stashing cocaine between layers of bricks in the garage and giving the property assessment an immoderate value. I could understand that. But without a shit-ton of cocaine from a notorious Colombian drug lord, I just don’t get it. Do you?

Better than the Weekend called the deputy director of assessments for Lackawanna County directly — his name is John Foley — seeking answers in hopes of understanding why the county is collecting taxes on a property for dates before the property became taxable. Foley angrily refused to comment on the matter. However, when I called pretending to be a student at Lackawanna College working on a paper for my summer class, I uncovered a more candid response from the woman who answered the phone. She claimed the taxes were billed due to an oversight and identified it as the tax assessor office’s fault.

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It gets worse. Apparently, the Lackawanna County tax assessor’s office has a history with oversights. Better than the Weekend exclusively spoke with a woman whose property was carelessly sold in a sheriff’s sale due to an oversight — even though she paid her taxes.

Jamie Constantine, who owns The Velvet Elvis vintage shop in Scranton, also co-owns Spring Hills Farm in Dalton. She says she was taken aback when a man approached her property a few years ago claiming he needed access to the land because he just purchased it from a sheriff’s sale. It turned out the Lackawanna County assessor’s office sold a portion of the land because of an oversight in filing their paid taxes.

“It cost more than $5,000 in legal fees to get it taken care of even though we were paying our taxes the entire time,” Constantine said.

That’s hard-earned money the owners of Spring Hills Farm never saw again.

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That right there is proof Scranton’s government retains the kind of self-sabotage frat boys usually grow out of. However, unlike light beer and cheap handles of vodka, the power that comes from being an elected official is an intoxicating feeling these Peter Pans in positions of power can’t seem to detach from as the years pass by, their hairlines recede and problems grow bigger and bigger.

In a report by Eyewitness News, Foley said his office decided to “roll the dice” when sending Basalyga a bill for nearly $255k. Is it just me, or should someone in that kind of position speak more assuredly on behalf of sending a bill for the price of a small yacht and not like someone who just had to sign himself out of Mohegan Sun?

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If the tax assessor’s office decided to change the tax classification of John Basalyga’s garage moving forward, that’s fine. Scranton’s financial state is in undeniable peril. No property should be exempt from taxes right now. Yet, somehow, an astonishing 33 percent of the properties in Scranton are exempt from paying taxes, largely placing the burden on homeowners struggling to keep a roof over their head. No city should have one-third of its property exempt from taxes.

Whoever allowed that to happen deserves diarrhea so messy that they have to take a shower after. Imagine how much it would help if the mayor grew a backbone and pushed for every property to be taxable for just the next decade. It seems, however, the mayor wants to be in office so he can cut ribbons and practice his Rosetta Stone on the Bar Pazzo menu.

If you’re a church, think about this: What would Jesus do? Would he not pay taxes if it meant families would struggle to keep their home? I don’t speak for the divine daddy J, but I doubt it.

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As for The University of Scranton, know this: They keep expanding and buying properties downtown that takes tax money away from the city and likely cause taxes to spike for hardworking families who spend their entire lives here, unlike the students. When the university bought a building on Courthouse Square in 2012, the city lost out on the taxes it provided. The previous owner of that building paid $15,590 in school taxes alone. Just that property’s taxes could help buy a lot of supplies for students that underpaid teachers are left responsible to cover. According to their website, The University of Scranton’s 2016-2017 school year revenue was more than $224 million while the city of Scranton’s revenue was less than half of that. If the university is raking in a quarter of a billion dollars in a single school year, and Scranton is struggling, they could manage to allocate some of that to pay taxes for a few years to help the city out.

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Perhaps this is the biggest question: If 33 percent of properties in Scranton aren’t being taxed, why is the city attacking John Basalyga and his parking garage? Basalyga is one of, if not the, biggest investors in Scranton right now. He invested millions into saving the mall and transforming it into a marketplace. Basalyga has a vision for this city and is actually taking action to try to build it up. What message does this send someone interested in bringing a business here — that Scranton grasps at straws when it needs money and attacks people they think can foot a bill? Of all the property owners you could attack, you decide to go after one of the few people who would invest large sums of money into saving the city? That’s an abuse of power. That’s like slapping your wife across the face and then expecting her to make you dinner and iron your clothes for the next workday.  Or, maybe it’s just like Scranton politics.

Perhaps a positive takeaway here is that people are being heard at city council meetings. Hopefully people will go and encourage Scranton to roll the dice in the right direction and ask for John Foley’s resignation. His leadership is clearly ineffective. His office’s oversights are costing the city seemingly due taxes and residents legal fees to prove they paid taxes. It would be great if people would encourage council to not use taxpayer money to fight Basalyga’s likely appeal and put more effort into noticeably slimming the percentage of tax-exempt properties in the Electric City.

And before Scranton politicians and tax collectors fall asleep at night, which I don’t know how many of them (not all) do with a clear conscience, they should ask themselves this: What would Michael Scott have to say? Like Jesus, I don’t speak for Michael Scott, but I imagine he’d probably say something like:

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