Commissioner Field Narrows; Evans City-focused
Count two Republicans out of the Lackawanna County commissioner race. Last week, we wrote Jessica Kalinoski might run for commissioner. Though four people told us she planned to run because that’s the impression she left with them, she called Roderick on Monday to say she decided against running. “I never, ever said I was (running). I asked, ‘What do you think?’ ” said Kalinoski, a Throop resident and director of operations for Admiral Management Services, which manages developer Charles Jefferson’s downtown Scranton properties. “Was I possibly (running)? Yes. Am I? No. I have four kids, I have a lot of responsibilities on my shoulders.” Kalinoski, 42, could have made the Republican race really interesting, but OK, she’s out. More significantly, so is Scranton City Councilman Wayne Evans, who previously said he won’t run for re-election either. Evans’ decision stands out because, coming from a base of city voters, he stood a real chance of winning one of the two Republican nominations in the May 21 primary election. A South Scranton resident, Evans, 65, is a longtime Scranton neighborhood leader and blight fighter there. He spent years in the 1990s on the Scranton City Planning Commission, appointed by Mayor Jim Connors. He also won election in November 1999 to the city home rule charter study commission. In 2001, the commission recommended limiting mayors and council members to two terms, capping property taxes, cutting the city’s wage tax by 21 percent, creating a managing director to oversee all city departments instead of having just a business administrator, and lots other reforms. Chris Doherty and many others opposed the new charter. As voters overwhelmingly elected Doherty mayor in November 2001, they also overwhelmingly rejected the new charter. “We did the best we could, but we were eight to 10 volunteers against more than 90 workers who had money for signs and radio ads,” Evans said after the rejection. “I think if Chris (Doherty) had stayed out of it, the proposed charter would have passed.” Doherty didn’t want his hands tied by tax limits as he tried to drag the city out of its financial mess. Looking back, maybe he should have backed the new charter. The caps certainly would have given him more evidence of the city’s financial woes in his lengthy court fight against expensive contract arbitration awards for the city’s police and firefighter unions. Doherty lost that battle and never got the city out of its financially distressed status, though he mostly put forth sound annual budgets. The point here is: Evans established credibility as a reformer. After that, he stepped away from politics, and hosted a cable TV show with former Councilwoman Sherry Nealon Fanucci (her name at the time) highlighting city life. He retired from his engineering job at Verizon about 15 years ago, and now owns a successful real estate company that bears his name. The council appointed him in July 2014 to replace Councilman Jack Loscombe after Loscombe resigned. Evans promised he wouldn’t run in 2015, and didn’t circulate nominating petitions to get himself on the ballot in the May primary election. Despite that, supporters rallied around him and convinced enough voters to write in his name to get him on the November ballot. He won election and remains one of only two Republicans (Brian Reap is the other) to serve on the council since 1982. “That’s 5½ years of something I thought I was going to be on for only a year and a half,” Evans said. He’s excited about several initiatives the city will begin this year — Beautiful Blocks to fix sidewalks, the SeeClickFix app so citizens can point out problems, an update of the city’s zoning ordinance and a study on downtown mobility. He wants to finish out the year pushing them all forward. Evans won’t address it, but you can bet he’s thinking about a different political future, too. If the FBI investigation of Mayor Bill Courtright ends with the mayor’s indictment and conviction, the city will need a new mayor. The council will have 30 days to pick one, and Evans would undoubtedly show interest in that. He has been focused on the city going back to his days on the planning commission. Years ago, long before anyone else, Evans and architect Eugene Ogozalek advocated the diagonal parking you see in the 100, 200 and 300 blocks of Penn Avenue. Also well before it happened, Evans promoted downtown housing, which took off under Doherty. Evans winds up in the vanguard a lot, which probably makes many wish he jumped into the commissioners race. “When I look at the commissioners race, I don’t know that I was looking at it for the right reasons. It was more of a political opportunity. I’m not about political opportunity,” Evans said. “I’m somebody who loves the city and I’m somebody who understands the city really well.” Passion goes a long way in politics, which often involves resolving conflicting views and requires someone willing to work hard toward a proper compromise. Evans just didn’t have the same passion for a commissioner bid. With Evans and Kalinoski out, that leaves Commissioner Laureen Cummings, Chris Chermak and, potentially, Scott Twp. Supervisor Michael Giannetta in the Republican race. The Democrats so far are Commissioner Jerry Notarianni and his running mate, George Kelly, and Commissioner Patrick O’Malley and his running mate, Debi Domenick. Only 10 days left to circulate nominating petitions. BORYS KRAWCZENIUK, The Times-Tribune politics reporter, writes Random Notes.