They tapped veteran city Councilman William Peduto as their standard-bearer in Pittsburgh and city Tax Collector Bill Courtright in Scranton, but spurned Harrisburg Mayor Linda Thompson’s re-election bid and chose bookstore owner Eric Papenfuse instead on Tuesday.
Each is favored to win in the November election, given Democrats’ heavy registration advantage in the three cities. Voters also handed Kim Bracey an apparent second term as mayor of York, where no Republican is running.
In the only statewide nomination race, Allegheny County Judge Jack McVay Jr. won the Democratic nomination for an open seat on the Superior Court, defeating Philadelphia Municipal Court Judge Joseph C. Waters Jr.
The newly appointed state receiver for Harrisburg, David Unkovic has been given an extension by Commonwealth Court to develop a plan to bring Harrisburg back from the brink of financial ruin. The Harrisburg Authority’s failed retrofit of the city’s incinerator plunged the state capital $317 million dollars in debt.
Harrisburg entered Act 47 as a first step to recovery. The Harrisburg City Council and Harrisburg Mayor Linda Thompson have been at odds with the Act 47 team and each other. Failure to follow the Act 47 team’s suggestions or come up with their own plan, the Governor of Pennsylvania appointed a receiver to take control of the city’s finances and come up with a plan to untangle Harrisburg from the incinerator debt.
The deadline has been extended from January 2nd until February 6th. We applaud the wisdom of this decision. Allowing sufficient time for the receiver to formulate the best possible plan is a “no-brainer”. Harrisburg didn’t get into this situation over night and rushing to get out could make things worse.
David Unkovic, most recently chief counsel of the state’s Department of Community and Economic Development, was named by Gov. Tom Corbett to lead Harrisburg quickly out of financial distress. He will be assisted by the Washington, D.C.-based law firm of McKenna Long & Aldridge.
At a press conference, Unkovic deflected concerns about his past, including 23 years at the firm of Saul Ewing, which represents Assured Guaranty, the largest insurer of Harrisburg incinerator bonds. He’s also worked for other firms that have ties to the incinerator debacle, including Public Finance Management and RBC Capital Markets…
Harrisburg City Council rejected the Act 47 plan, and now they have rejected Mayor Linda Thompson’s plan one last time. Critics say the mayor’s plan is basically the same plan as presented by the Act 47 team.
Rejecting the mayoral plan means the original plan will end up being enforced by the Commonwealth. Council is delaying the inevitable. However, denying the plan gives naysayers the ability to distance themselves from the plan should it go badly. This amounts to a CYA move for the no votes on council and the ability to come back and say “I told you so!” later.
Governor Corbett says he will sign legislation to appoint an oversight board to enforce the state recommended financial recovery plan. Harrisburg is $310 million dollars in debt from a failed retrofit of the city’s incinerator.
Flood waters have claims five lives in the midstate and two people are missing. Dauphin, York, Lancaster and Lebanon counties all reported deaths related to flooding.
Front Street in Harrisburg has flooded. The Shipoke section of Harrisburg was evacuated along with the Governor’s Mansion. Several blocks in Midtown had power shut off to force residents to evacuate. An 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew has been issued by the mayor’s office.
The Susquehanna River at Harrisburg is predicted to crest at 26.5 feet at around 8 p.m. this evening.
Harrisburg Mayor, Linda Thompson is threatening to arrest and fine gawkers who wander down to Front Street to take pictures and check out the Susquehanna River. 10,000 city residents from Front to Third Street are being evacuated and the mayor wants people to stay away from the river.
Unlike Wilkes-Barre, Harrisburg has no dike system in place. The Susquehanna River is projected to crest at 26.2 feet or 9.2 feet above flood stage. This will involve the evacuation of residential sections of the city (Shipoke, Front, Second, Green and Vaughn Streets).
Along with the City of Harrisburg, the Dauphin County Commissioners have declared a state of emergency.
Harrisburg, Pa — It may be a difficult road ahead for Harrisburg’s latest financial recovery plan, as several council members tonight voiced significant concerns over Mayor Linda Thompson’s Act 47 alternative.
Councilman Brad Koplinski complained that the mayor did not explore the potential of implementing a 1 percent, county-wide sales tax, nor did her plan include any concessions from bond insurer AGM…
To read the rest of the article and other coverage of Harrisburg’s Act 47 status, click here:
A day of reckoning is swiftly approaching for the Harrisburg City School District. The top-heavy district is getting a reality check because of a $15 million budget deficit and the inability to get grants to fill budget holes.
Items on the chopping block are two neighborhood schools (proposed for closure), 120-150 teachers, 22 percent staff and more administrators. Other items up for elimination are the district’s vocational and technical programs and programs for disruptive and truant students.
Director Wayne Henry was quoted as saying the district would have to start living within its means. Director Esther Edwards said the closures were horrible but if we don’t have the money to operate, we’re going to have to do it.
The Harrisburg School District is synonymous with the City of Harrisburg. There are 17 schools and 8,306 students. The district spends $13,182 per pupil. There are 11 students for every full-time equivalent teacher. The dropout rate is 6 percent. 21 percent of students have and IEP and 8 percent are ELL. Data from education.com based on 2008 data.
According to Wikipedia, in 2011 Harrisburg SD ranked 494th out of 498 school districts in Pennsylvania for academic achievement. Harrisburg High School’s 2010 graduation rate was 79 percent and the school is in year 7 of corrective action for chronically low student achievement. In 2009 a Pennsylvania Dept of Education study revealed that 67 percent of Harrisburg High School graduates needed costly remediation in math and reading before they were prepared to take college courses.
A new player has entered the “who wants the Harrisburg incinerator” sweepstakes while the Lancaster County Solid Waste Authority ups their ante.
New York investor Jacob Frydman has offered a deal that includes leasing the incinerator and the city’s parking system. Frydman and company are mainly interested in the parking system. They are offering a deal that would net Harrisburg $240 million. Of course this means parking rates and trash rates will instantly increase as somebody has to shoulder the debt and the investor needs to show a profit.
The Lancaster County Solid Waste Authority has upped their offer to $124 million and would increase tipping fees for county residents while reducing fees for city residents, who pay much more. The goal would be to have city and county residents paying the same for trash service in twenty years. Lancaster has no interest in the parking system.
The Act 47 team will also have a plan for the incinerator debt as well. They may suggest an entirely different scenario than either of these two proposals.
The Harrisburg Patriothas 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.
Controversial Harrisburg Mayor, Linda Thompson, is refusing to sign Harrisburg City Council’s proposed 2011 budget. Mayor Thompson thinks the proposed $56 million dollar budget is deeply flawed because it underfunds the police and fire budgets.
According to Thompson, she found $4 million dollars worth of errors in the budget and she asserts this budget does not even provide for sufficient fuel to power the city’s emergency vehicles. Thompson was quoted as comparing the proposed budget to throwing spaghetti against a wall to see if it sticks.
Mayor Thompson can veto the budget, use as line-item veto or let it pass but refuse to sign. She has until Tuesday to make a decision.
Taking a cue from Pottstown, a group of concerned taxpayers in Harrisburg is forming a new organization to represent their interests and concerns regarding the October 1st application for Act 47, which would officially designate Harrisburg a financially distressed city. The $288 million dollar incinerator debacle is threatening to financially ruin our state capital.
Debt Watch Harrisburg held their first meeting on October 19th at the Midtown Scholar Bookstore, 1302 N. Third Street in Harrisburg. Harrisburg attorney Neil Grover and several other activists are organizing the effort.
If you are a city resident, please click on the link below for more information on how you can protect your interests:
A bad situation is getting worse by the minute. Harrisburg has 557 employees and the payroll is $1.2 million. Payroll is due next week and the city has $492,000.00 in the bank.
Fast Eddie and Linda Thompson are scrambling to find lenders to cover the payroll gap but lenders are skittish about investing in Harrisburg. Not just because of the incinerator debt but also because of the fighting between the mayor and council. There is no clear plan in place to get Harrisburg out of the mess they find themselves in. There is a lot of rhetoric and finger-pointing but no good solutions seem to be forthcoming.
Somebody needs to take control of this rapidly deteriorating situation!
Some positive and forward momentum was made last night when the Harrisburg Authority added a needed sixth member to make a quorum. The Authority has not had a quorum since May! Evidently Mayor Linda Thompson finally got her nominee approved after several months of lobbying.
Harrisburg City Council also approved making a one-time $3.3 million dollar payment on the incinerator debt via a budget transfer. Where did this money suddenly come from you ask? Ed Rendell, governor deluxe, basically gave Harrisburg money they would be receiving throughout the year in a lump sum. As you recall, the two bank accounts the debt payment was to come from had less than $2.00 between them.
There is still much division between Mayor Thompson and council on how to proceed with a long-term incinerator debt strategy. Harrisburg owes $288 million dollars!
Also Scott Balice Strategies is tapped to be hired with state funds to help Harrisburg out of their current financial black hole. Everyone on council is not on board with this decision and the City Controller said he will not sign off on paying Scott Balice Strategies until council votes in favor of the hire.
One member of council tried to make a motion to hire a bankruptcy lawyer to investigate filing for Chapter 9. However, the councilor was told his motion was inappropriate as it was at the end of the meeting. The meeting was quickly adjourned.
Sounds like Harrisburg isn’t out of the woods yet!