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Scranton’s candidates for mayor to face off in millennial town hall

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Millennials will have a chance to address their concerns for the future of Scranton, Pennsylvania in a first-ever town town hall debate solely catering to the youngest voters in the Electric City. Better than the Weekend is hosting the event Thursday, November 2 at 7:30 p.m. at the Hilton Scranton & Conference Center. All three candidates who participated in the first mayoral debate on Oct. 25 — Democratic nominee Bill Courtright, Republican nominee Jim Mulligan, and write-in candidate Gary St. Fleur — have agreed to participate and look forward to validating the concerns of young voters.

Despite how divided the United States is when it comes to political issues, America remains the highest hope for all who cherish free speech and open debate. When the League of Women Voters of Lackawanna County last week refused to allow Better than the Weekend to live-stream the mayoral debate between the candidates in Scranton, I felt like I was in North Korea. Or some alternate universe in Rick and Morty.

While the LWV of Lackawanna County says they’re open to live streaming in the future, that doesn’t help the voting public now. Only 20 percent of registered voters in Scranton voted for a mayoral candidate in the primaries. Something needs to happen to stimulate a higher voter turnout. Restricting a debate’s accessibility is not only reckless — it builds a wall between the candidates and the citizens they wish to lead.

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While past elections have shown young people are less likely to vote, the all throat and no vote reputation is expiring. Millennials are fed up with the broken social contract around college, which no longer functions as an automatic elevator to indulging middle-class comfort. Young people are crippled by the fall in wage growth. More connected than any other generation in history, millennials put social unrest on blast and spark conversations with hundreds, sometimes thousands, of instant allies. We’re woke and we’re not backing down.

Seemingly out of touch with the way our country is moving forward and the modern means to live up to their core principles and democratic responsibility of engaging the public with local government, the LWV of Lackawanna County inspired Better than the Weekend to step up and host a town hall where millennials could take the lead.

The first 40 millennials to RSVP by sending an email to justin@betterthantheweekend.com will be welcomed to attend the town hall. The RSVP email must include their full name, age, cell phone number, name as appears on Facebook, Instagram name and question directed at all candidates. Facebook and Instagram information will be used to screen participants and assure they’re millennials from Scranton.

Even those who can’t attend are encouraged to email a question or post it on Facebook.com/betterthantheweekend by leaving a comment on the post featuring this article. For those who can’t attend, the debate will be live-streamed on Facebook.com/betterthantheweekend. The video will still be up on the page after it is filmed. Not all questions will be guaranteed to be addressed. Better than the Weekend and the candidates will try to get as many concerns addressed as possible.

A special millennial town hall happy hour will take place at PJ’s Pub inside the Hilton from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. leading up to the debate.

Further questions about the event are encouraged and can be sent to justin@betterthantheweekend.com.

For now, spread the word and be heard.

 

 

 

 

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  1. Maggie Mariotti

    November 1, 2017 at 3:03 pm

    Question for Mayor Courtright: Mr Mulligan, what is your plan to work with schools, like the University of Scranton, to help students get on the job training and how will you use millennials in your administration?

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Scranton’s mayor drops out of debate, dismisses millennial population

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Scranton’s mayor, Bill Courtright, dropped out of a debate with candidates Jim Mulligan and Gary St. Fleur at the eleventh hour. A campaign spokesperson cited “scheduling conflicts” Tuesday in an email, despite committing 8 days earlier.

The debate is the first opportunity for the candidates to take questions together directly from the voters. It is also the first-ever time Scranton’s candidates for mayor will unite to address concerns made by the youngest voters — millennials. The League of Women Voters of Lackawanna County hosted a debate last week, but refused to allow live-streaming, making the debate less accessible to young people.

Tobe Berkovitz, a Boston University professor with 30 years of experience as a political media consultant, says it’s not uncommon for an incumbent mayor to avoid a debate.

“There’s really two reasons a candidate would not want to appear,” said Berkovitz in a phone call to Better than the Weekend. “One. He or she knows they are way ahead. They’re most likely to win the election, so they don’t have a lot to gain and they have a lot to lose. Why give a platform to your opponents and allow them a chance to score some points? Number two. There’s some kind of scandal or problem that he or she doesn’t want to bring to the forefront.”

Both are possible reasons Courtright dropped out of the upcoming debate. In 2013, Courtright, a Democrat, defeated Jim Mulligan, the same Republican nominee he’s running against this time around. He’s likely confident his supporters will turn out to hand him another victory. In terms of a scandal, a Lackawanna County judge recently ruled Scranton overtaxed residents and is in violation of state law. Jesse Chobey, a millennial Scranton voter, is convinced Courtright doesn’t want to put himself in another position to answer to a crime crippling his constituents.

“Courtight’s whole term as mayor of Scranton was spent stealing money off the tax payers and now he’s a coward and can’t face up to what he did. Bottom line,” said Chobey.

Dropping out “is not good democracy, but it’s good political strategy,” said Berkovitz.

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Mike Milani feels Courtright’s sudden scheduling conflict is irresponsible and sends a message affirming millennials have no future in Scranton.

“Let’s just give the guy the benefit of the doubt and say there is a scheduling conflict,” said Milani. “You mean to tell me it took days for his campaign to realize he can’t attend? That just shows how sloppy local government is under his scrambled leadership.”

After moving to Scranton from Baltimore, Maryland to attend Lackawanna College in 2011, Milani said he struggled for six years to succeed in the area before making the decision to move to Dallas, Texas this year.

“There was no opportunity for me unless I married into one of the monarch families of NEPA,” said Milani. “There’s too much nepotism for outsiders to come here and succeed. I knew someone who got arrested by a cop, was legally represented by his brother, and the judge was the father. That’s seriously fucked up and sounds like something that would happen in a farm town in Kentucky, not a city with more than 70,000 people living there. The only good jobs are local government jobs. Small businesses can’t thrive in the area. Money isn’t spent on attracting educated entrepreneurs. People should look at the budget. Too much money is spent on a failing criminal system with a recidivism rate through the roof. It’s crazy.” While Pennsylvania recidivism rates are dropping to a historic low, Lackawanna County is jailing people at twice the national average.

Milani said he’s not surprised the mayor dropped out of a debate targeting millennial issues because he doesn’t believe Courtright would know what to say to young people calling out the city’s lack of opportunity.

“The young people in Scranton should pack their bags and run now if they want a chance at any kind of future,” he said.

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Republican candidate Jim Mulligan and Gary St. Fleur, running on a write-in campaign, feel differently about the fate of the Electric City. They see the potential in Scranton with new leadership and will be addressing concerns when millennials take charge at Thursday’s town hall.

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Any millennial voter (born in or after 1981) in Scranton can attend the debate by sending an RSVP to justin@betterthantheweekend.com with their name, contact information and question to the candidates. For those who can’t attend, questions can still be submitted by email and on Facebook.com/betterthantheweekend by commenting on the post announcing the event.

The debate will be hosted by Better than the Weekend at the Hilton Scranton & Conference Center and will be live-streamed at 7:30 p.m. on Facebook.com/betterthantheweekend.

Better than the Weekend hopes Courtright will once again change his mind and prove he is willing to prioritize concerns of millennials by participating in the debate but is still looking forward to hearing from anyone running for mayor willing to talk about the future of the city with the future of the city.

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Father to daughter: An open letter to Lindsay Lohan from her dad

Michael Lohan

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My Dearest Lindsay,

Well the The Parent Trap is over. You’re 12 years old now, yet while you have an old soul, your life has only begun. I’ve been around the block a few times, Linds, and I’ve lived your life twice over. I write this thinking of the days gone by, how you got here today and what the future holds for you. I’m trying to find the words. Words with meaning and deep rooted truth that will stay with you forever. Words that will guide you and express my feelings toward you. Words like love, forgiveness, sacrifice, strength, hope and faith. Words like gifted, a blessing and the natural beauty you are. Words that are kind, thoughtful, generous and touch the heart in wonderful ways. But beware, my darlin’, because there will be times when people come at you because of all the wonderful things you are, and they will use words in ways that aren’t so kind.

When a father has a daughter like you, who has accomplished so much at such an early age, it’s scary, but he also realizes she’s just as strong as he is. A force to be reckoned with. A soul on fire, just like your hair, with the same strength and passions as any man I’ve ever met.

Like you sweetheart, words do have strength of their own, and maybe, just maybe, my words as a father will be louder and resinate more than the words of the world. Maybe my words can deliver to you a deep, unshakeable sense of your own worthiness and beauty.

Your gifts are a blessing, honey, and you have a great responsibility to use them in the best of ways. As I told you, God says, “Where there is much given, there’s much required,” and if not used the right way, “What God gives you, He will take away.” I hope those words find a place deeply tucked in your heart. Your talent is a force to be reckoned with. So when options come your way that can distract your work, always choose your talent. Your talent will inspire people. It will force people to feel things like laughter, joy and the feeling of not being alone. But if you don’t keep your talent on top of the list of priorities, it will be taken away. After all, you know how often that has happened to me.

Also realize that there will be bumps in the road because of life and no one is perfect. God knows, I’ve been there as well. The important part is that when a rough patch comes and if you fall off the horse, that you get back on so the horse doesn’t run too far away. Use your strength to get up, dust it off and continue in the right direction. You have the reins in your hands, honey, but let God be your driving force in the pursuit of your dreams.And when it comes to your dreams, choose them wisely, and not from a department store shelf, a book or someone else’s thoughts of what you should do or where you should go. Live your life like your heart tells you with the wholehearted consideration of what God whispers in your ear. That whisper, honey, is your conscience, and it will guide you. Find the still-quiet place within you and never lose it. A real dream has been planted there.

May your strength be in your heart, may you discern in your heart who you are, and then may you boldly, but carefully, live it out in the world to the best of your ability. Be the kind, loving and ageless soul that you are and make a difference in wonderful ways.

From my heart to yours,

Daddy

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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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