New Pittsburgh Government Set To Launch As Peduto Has Laid Out Some Lofty Goals

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its nei...

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its neighborhoods labeled. For use primarily in the list of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On Saturday, incoming Mayor Bill Peduto began his move into the mayoral wing on the fifth floor of the City-County Building in advance of today’s inauguration, when he will officially take the reins of city government.

The Rev. Terry O’Connor, son of the late Mayor Bob O’Connor and brother to Councilman Corey O’Connor, blessed the space with a sprinkling of holy water. The floors were mopped.

For a man who has pledged to “clean up city hall” and who gave his victory speech while clutching a broom, it was an apropos entrance.

Mr. Peduto has expounded on that theme for more than a year, calling the administration of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl corrupt and saying that the city needs to move away from the old-style politics if it wants to progress. And if he holds to his campaign pledges, he will represent a monumental shift in both style and substance in the mayor’s office.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/local/city/2014/01/06/New-Pittsburgh-government-set-to-launch-as-Peduto-has-laid-out-some-lofty-goals/stories/2014010601030000000#ixzz2pdpIux3L

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10 Years Later, Is Pittsburgh Really Climbing Out Of The Red?

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its nei...

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its neighborhoods labeled. For use primarily in the list of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ten years and four months ago, then-Mayor Tom Murphy stood before a cadre of media to deliver grim news.

By the time he stepped up to speak, eyes moistened with tears, Pittsburgh city government had been sputtering along like an airplane held together by duct tape, according to a former finance director. But now the plane was about to take a nose dive — with the possibility of bankruptcy hovering.

“I hate doing this,” Mr. Murphy told the reporters.

He announced plans to lay off 731 city workers — including police officers — and leave hundreds more positions unfilled. All but six city pools would be drained and closed early — along with 19 recreation centers that were, in many places, critical gathering spots for sports and community events. Later that year, the city’s credit rating would be downgraded, making it the only major American city whose debt was rated “junk.” A fifth of the city’s budget went to pay off old debt.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/local/city/2013/12/29/10-years-later-is-Pittsburgh-really-climbing-out-of-the-red/stories/201312290057#ixzz2or2K9BKS

York City Mayor Proposes No Tax Increase

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting York County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting York County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

York City Mayor Kim Bracey is proposing a 2014 budget that does not increase property taxes.

The proposal is now in the hands of the York City Council, which has scheduled two hearings in early December to discuss the budget. It is scheduled to be adopted at the council’s Tuesday, Dec. 17 meeting.

“This was a tough budget,” Bracey said Tuesday at a press conference.

The city’s costs continue to rise, and revenues haven’t kept pace, Bracey said. Meanwhile, Pennsylvania’s “antiquated” local-government system greatly limits the options for officials in third-class cities like York, she said.

Read more: http://www.yorkdispatch.com/breaking/ci_24553629/york-city-mayor-proposes-no-tax-increase

Reading Looks To Rewrite The Rules To Help Business

Contractors, developers and even city officials have complained for years that getting approvals and permits from City Hall is too complicated and takes too long.

Developer Alan Shuman, prodded recently by City Council, said it often takes him four weeks and longer to get permits in hand for many of his projects.

Mayor Vaughn D. Spencer had campaigned on building a more business-friendly City Hall and told a business group in April that it often takes four to six weeks to issue a permit.

“Businesses jump down my throat for that,” he said.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=484891

Carlisle Residents Face Home-Rule Question: Primary Focus

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Cumberland County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Cumberland County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Carlisle, Tuesday’s ballot won’t be just about filling the borough’s elective offices.

Residents are also being asked whether they want to embark on a study of home rule, the municipal equivalent of a constitutional convention.

Council voted in January to place a question on the May primary ballot asking whether a study commission should be formed to explore whether it makes sense for Carlisle to adopt its own charter for local government, and replace some of the current limitations imposed by the state’s borough code.

The issue got some legs after last year’s arrest of former borough tax collector George Hicks on drug charges, and a resulting examinations that found Hicks had done a shoddy job of record-keeping.

Read more:  http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2013/05/carlisle_borough_residents_fac.html

Mount Penn Votes To Reopen Merger Talks With Lower Alsace Township

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United Stat...

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United States with township and municipal boundaries (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mount Penn Borough Council members voted unanimously Tuesday to reopen merger discussions with Lower Alsace Township.

In a separate matter, they also accepted the resignation of Mayor Joshua Nowotarski and appointed a new mayor.

Lower Alsace Township supervisors sent a letter to Mount Penn officials last month asking that they resume discussions about the municipalities merging or pay merger study fees the township incurred.

Councilman Thomas Smith said he felt the discussions should continue, but suggested Mount Penn appoint a committee to speak with Lower Alsace supervisors instead of the entire council participating.  Council members agreed, settling on a three-member committee.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=477228

Cindy Conard For Pottstown Council In The 7th Ward

255662_235030059971035_2078731079_nRevitalization in our community will require partnerships between local, county and state governments as well as local grassroots leaders.  Council representatives not only represent their constituents, they represent the community.  By nurturing relationships with decision makers at every level we can bring focus to our goals and objectives.

 

Plan For Takeover Of Reading Pagoda Advances

Picture 511The new nonprofit that plans to take over the city-owned Pagoda says it’s ready to rock, but agrees with the city there are too many outstanding issues, as well as confusion over board membership, to get the 99-year lease it wants.

In the meantime, both sides are considering a temporary agreement allowing the Reading Pagoda Foundation to take over operations while the other issues are resolved.

The first of them: The year-old Foundation for the Reading Public Museum has a board, but none of its members were nominated by Mayor Vaughn D. Spencer nor approved by City Council as required, member Lee C. Olsen told City Council last week.

Rather, they were members of the task force set up by former Mayor Tom McMahon and, when the foundation recommended by the task force was created, sort of morphed into the foundation board, he said.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=446240

City Of Reading Budget Plan Calls For 15% Property Tax Hike

 

A 1947 topographic map of the Reading, Pennsyl...

A 1947 topographic map of the Reading, Pennsylvania area. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mayor Vaughn D. Spencer, angry at the city’s outside consultants who he said forced an austerity plan on the city at the last minute, on Wednesday presented a $73.4 million proposed 2013 budget that includes a 15 percent property tax hike.

But Spencer said he didn’t support the spending plan.

“This forced austerity plan suggests that we continue on a narrow pathway where our citizens pay more and get less,” he told City Council.

Council members agreed.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=418705

Scranton Is A ‘Hot Commodity’ For Downtown Residential Housing

Scranton‘s financial house may be in disorder, but the downtown residential boom continues to build momentum.

More than $11.3 million in three ongoing developments will add 74 apartments to Central City by next summer.

“Scranton is a hot commodity,” said Charlie Jefferson, an investor in the $8.6 million redevelopment of the Scranton Chamber of Commerce Building at Mulberry Street and North Washington Avenue.

Scranton’s municipal government is facing a credit crisis and recently borrowed $6.25 million to cover short-term financial obligations.  City residents could face potential tax increases of 39 to 79 percent – or more – over the next three years.

Read more:  http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/scranton-is-a-hot-commodity-for-downtown-residential-housing-1.1377909

8 States With Deepest Funding Cuts

Editor’s note:  Pennsylvania did NOT make this list….you may be surprised by some of the states that did!

The Great Recession pinched state governments, forcing them to be less generous with local communities which, in turn, had less to spend on students, police and programs for the poor.

For nearly three decades, local governments could count on a steady increase in money from their two biggest funding sources — the states and property taxes.

That changed in 2009 and 2010, when local governments took in less from both sources, according to a report last month from the Pew American Cities Project.  The funding shortfall has forced many cities, towns, counties and school districts to tighten their belts.

24/7 Wall St identified the eight states making the steepest cuts in funding to local governments. The website’s analysis of data from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the U.S. Census Bureau suggests that these states were having their own budget problems as tax receipts shriveled in an anemic economy.

Read more: http://money.msn.com/investing/8-states-with-deepest-funding-cuts

Reading Mayor Defends How He Built Team

Reading City Hall on the NRHP since April 13, ...

Reading City Hall on the NRHP since April 13, 1982. At 8th and Washington Streets, Reading, Pennsylvania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since his Jan. 2 inauguration, Mayor Vaughn D. Spencer has awarded six outside consulting contracts, worth a total of $176,000, to give him more people to carry out his agendas.

All of these contracts circumvented the city’s normal contract-awarding process; all of them bypassed City Council; all but one of them involved members of his campaign and/or transition committees; and one was for the services of a media manager, who council had previously rejected for a city job.

Council members’ responses have ranged from livid to concerned. Several claim it’s all political patronage for those who got Spencer elected, and several say the city could better use the money to hire a badly needed police officer or firefighter.

But Spencer defends the contracts, saying they give him the extra help the administration needs and are the only way the city can plan how to do a better job, which he defines as saving money or raising revenue without increasing tax rates.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=381111

Bad Behavior At Council Meetings Is Not Limited To Pottstown – Wilkes-Barre Has Problems Too!

This is just scary.  Name calling, door slamming, being escorted out of meetings… sound familiar?

Evidently Wilkes-Barre City Council meetings get “buck wild” too.  Mayor Thomas Leighton of Wilkes-Barre allegedly called City Wide Towing & Repair’s owner “cupcake” during a city council meeting.  Bob Kudluboski (City Wide’s owner) erupted calling the mayor a “punk” and was escorted out of the building by city police.

When questioned after being ejected, one of Bob’s comments was “Why was he (the mayor) standing back there anyway?  Is he trying to make me punch him in the face?”

To read the rest of this inspiring story from the Times Leader:

http://www.timesleader.com/news/Mayor_rsquo_s_remark_enrages_tow_truck_operator_06-16-2011.html

Harrisburg Mayor Gets Poor Marks For Keeping Low Profile

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The Harrisburg Patriot has given Mayor Linda Thompson a very public chiding in today’s editorial due to her public absence during Harrisburg’s water main crisis that shut down state, county and city government, the school district, HACC and local businesses. 

Harrisburg’s main water line was accidentally ruptured and released thousands of gallons of water into a brownfield site near Cameron Street.  Millions of gallons of drinking water a day were lost due to the break and everything in Harrisburg came to an abrupt halt.  There was concern about having adequate water supplies for fire stations and Harrisburg Hospital.  The entire city could have been without water had this situation not been handled quickly and efficiently.

While the mayor was doing things behind the scenes, her lack of visibility has raised some eyebrows.  Mayor Thompson held no news conference until Wednesday.  The crisis occurred on Sunday and city residents have boiled water for several days.

Law Firm Advises Harrisburg City Council Not To Pursue Bankruptcy

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Cravath, Swaine & Moore has advised Harrisburg City Council, via a two hundred page document, not to pursue bankruptcy at this time.  Rather the city should stay the course with Act 47 and try to negotiate with stakeholders.

Harrisburg entered Act 47 after the city amassed a $288 million debt from retrofitting its incinerator.  This has nearly bankrupted Pennsylvania’s capital city and put a strain on Dauphin County as well.  The county became involved when Harrisburg City and Authority were unable to make a loan payment last year and were on the verge of default.

Camden, New Jersey: Enter At Your Own Risk

Camden, New Jersey is one of the poorest citie...

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Camden, New Jersey was just ranked the second most dangerous city in the United States.  A 2009 estimate census showed Camden’s population at 78,790.  Camden has a police force of 373 or one officer for every 211 people (This figure does not include civilian employees). The US average is one officer per 333 people.  The land area of the city is 8.8 square miles. 

Six months ago, 50 new officers were hired to beef up security for the beleaguered city.  Now it appears that on January 18th, up to 180 officers could be laid off.  Camden is financially distressed and is asking the officers to take a 20% pay cut.  Police sources say the pay cut approaches 35% with all total concessions.  Some of the new officers are wondering why they were hired in the first place.  On a positive note, there are other cities lining up to recruit any laid off Camden cops.  Nashville, Atlanta and Norfolk are interested in hiring any Camden law enforcement budget casualties. 

Camden has been in a free fall for decades.  Major employers like RCA, Campbell’s Soup and New York Shipbuilding employed well over 50,000 people.  Camden’s population peaked in 1950 at 124,555 residents.  The 2009 estimate shows a net loss of 45,765 residents since 1950 or about 37%.  By comparison, the state of New Jersey’s population has nearly doubled since 1950. 

41.7% of Camden residents lived in poverty in 2008.  Camden was ranked as American’s poorest city in 2006 when 52% of its residents lived in poverty.  By contrast, New Jersey had the nations second highest per capita personal income in 2008, the highest percentage of millionaire households and is second in the US for towns/cities with per capital incomes above the national average (76.4%).

Camden’s median household income was estimated at $24,283 per year in 2008 (NJ $70,378).  The estimated per capita income for Camden in 2008 was $10,771.  In April 2010 the unemployment rate in Camden was 18.1%, compared to 9.6% for the state of New Jersey.  

Camden scored a 967.6 crime index on City-data.com for 2009.  There were 34 murders.  In 2008 Camden scored 1114.6 and had 54 murders.  As we learned in my earlier post about crime stats, a score of over 700 is considered HIGH and a score about 1000 is considered VERY HIGH.

So what will become of Camden if, worst case scenario, 48% of their officers are laid off!  Or even if only 25% are laid off.  I shudder to think!

Enter at your own risk! 

(Demographic data taken from Wikipedia and City-data.com.)

Harrisburg To Layoff 10 Firefighters

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Mayor Linda Thompson announced today that she has formally notified 10 city firemen they will be laid off early in 2011. 

Mayor Thompson has also announced the closure of one fire station.  This will leave Harrisburg with 74 Fire Department employees and one less fire station. 

The union, Local 428 of the International Association of Fire Fighters has cost saving ideas that could save $1.5 million dollars and avoid layoffs or closing a station.

Council is still reviewing Thompson’s $6.9 million dollar fire budget.  They should complete their review on Monday.

Harrisburg Authority Plays Tooth Fairy To City

Streetscape of 1400 block of 2nd street in Har...

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The Harrisburg Authority has unanimously approved a payment to financially distressed Harrisburg City in the amount of $3.8 million dollars! 

The Authority, you may remember from earlier posts, created the $288 million dollar debt on the incinerator which has all but sent the capital city of Pennsylvania to the poor-house.  By some stroke of luck or Divine Intervention, the Authority has funds a-plenty in its water division.  The Authority is assuring the public that their “gift” to Harrisburg will not raise water rates for 2011, exhaust reserves or threaten capital projects

Seems only fitting that the Authority comes up with the money.  This infusion of capital reduces the city’s year-end deficit to a more manageable $1 million dollars. 

The $3.8 million dollars will be used toward city payroll and a big stack of unpaid bills!

Kudos to The Authority for doing the right thing by the citizens of Harrisburg!