Living in Fear of Tomorrow – Harrisburg PA

By David Chapinski, Phd Student/Adjunct Professor

Rutgers University/Felician College – Rutherford Campus

Yes, our system of laws in this country is not perfect. Revenue is pulled in but assets still disappear. Can this really be good for anybody?

Going into bankruptcy is difficult.  It should be a last resort.  However, even facing the final hour of reckoning, there is still not always a proper place for it.

When it comes to steering rather than rowing Harrisburg out of debt, it appears that  you cannot really teach a dog (the legislators) new tricks.

The city of Harrisburg has been slow to adopt new tricks in years past. Instead, legislators have been drinking from the same well for decades.  Similarly, as of 2012, the media and the people of Harrisburg, have been naïve enough to drink from the same well too.

And it’s time for something different – drastically different.

Is there anything that can be done to bridge the rate of urban decay between self interested creditors and insolvent debtors who continue to be unsuccessful in getting together and making a collective decision when it counts?

I believe there could be if it was any other city through a remedy called collective preservation of ones’ soul.  I do not believe a clear soul lies right now in the hearts of the mutually unavailable cowards left in the City of Harrisburg.

On the surface, it seems as though counting on private enterprise or a subsidized corporation, advocating for a state-run public works program would be a good idea.  Let’s recall the reversal of failures to meet expectations from projected steam sales of around 40,000 to 50,000 per month before the 2007 incinerator failure.

I am sure the idea of building a trash incinerator was much more lucid in 1972; however, a lot has changed in Harrisburg Pennsylvania in 40 years – – clearly.

However, for other, more powerful rural counties that are watching Harrisburg’s demise, there is little desire to contribute their tax dollars to any project that principally benefits urban business ventures and manufacturing.

The numbers do not lie. A problem has been brewing.

 According to James Spiotto statistics involving critical issues and recent developments in muni bankruptcy cases are clearly disturbing.

After seeing these hard to dismiss figures, it is more obvious that overcoming the great power of anti-Harrisburg sentiment is going to require considerable political skill, a skill that has been left to develop all by itself.

You cannot simply wake up one morning and choose replicable solutions to problems such as employment access, which leads to limitations beyond municipal default.

If that is the path selected, what is the next systemic shoe to drop?

Is it the rating agencies’ systemically raising ratings or the demarcated muni-market altogether?

I feel investors, unfortunately, are on their own with Harrisburg’s recovery and survival.  Indeed, project finance is a high risk, high rewards approach to cities.  Let us take a look at the persistence of the forgotten half.  By forgotten half I mean the funding chasm which will be the norm moving forward for projects in Harrisburg unless the forgotten half is recognized.

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