The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

The Rave

June 24, 2013

Elected officials can do the job

Sunbury has rightfully said thanks but no thanks to an outside firm's offer to represent it in negotiations for higher cable-rights fees. Right now, Sunbury gets 5 percent of Service Electric's gross revenue from city subscribers, which totaled more than $100,000 last year.

The city is happy with its 5 percent and leaders say they aren't concerned with raising that figure. When negotiations come up with Service Electric as the latest contract expires next year, maybe a little "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" deal could create a win-win for all parties involved.

Now an outside firm, Cohen Law Group from Pittsburgh, one that has little to no ties to the Valley, says it can get local municipalities more money from cable providers. Instead of 5 percent, the firm says, 'maybe you can get double or triple that number. You've been getting short-changed on all that free money you're collecting.'

But why does a city, or other municipalities who have interest in an alliance, need an outside group to do the negotiating?

"Why would we pay someone to negotiate for us?" Sunbury city councilman Joe Bartello asks.

The problem with middle men is they often don't have the best interests of both parties involved, or more important, the citizens it would directly effect. They see only dollar signs -- do you think they won't get a fee from the municipalities after the additional free goodies come in? They don't have any skin in the game.

With so many cuts when each budget rolls around this could be an opportune time for leaders to approve the additional funding. Fortunately Valley officials understand the consequences to these potential actions.

It is easy for a Pittsburgh firm to offer these solutions. But their intentions are not as pure as you would think. These firms are smart enough to know if a cable provider pays more to a local municipality, the cable provider will raise rates locally to make up the difference. Some Pittsburgh lawyer's cable bill won't go up, but the bills of everyone in Sunbury or Selinsgrove or another place could.

If these deals are to be agreed upon, let people who they directly affect have a role in the decision-making process. We have elected people to represent us for a reason -- with the confidence that they will do the right thing at the time.

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