Incoming Harrisburg mayor takes on heavy burden
HARRISBURG — Eric Papenfuse, the mayor-elect of one of Pennsylvania's most financially distressed cities and its state capital, was still getting congratulatory hugs and handshakes in his Harrisburg bookstore several days after last week's election.
“There are a lot of people who want to get involved and haven't really felt connected to city government for a while, so we're hoping we can take advantage of that” as part of the transition from businessman to mayor, he said in an interview.
Papenfuse, a Democrat who trounced incumbent Mayor Linda Thompson in the May primary and won Tuesday's election with about 50 percent of the vote, has been active in Harrisburg politics for years, but this will be the first elective office he has held.
“There was a certain weightiness that came down upon me Wednesday,” Papenfuse said. “I feel a great burden because there are so many people that not only have their hopes in the city but are also counting on me to make sure that there is a measure of accountability.”
His victory couldn't have happened at a more tumultuous time in the debt-saddled city, where officials are hoping for a December closing on a financial recovery plan that has been under negotiation since an unprecedented state takeover of the city government two years ago.
A state-appointed receiver and his team of lawyers and financial advisers are putting the finishing touches on a recovery plan that calls for the sale of the city's municipal trash incinerator, whose $350 million in debt the city has been unable to repay. The Lancaster Solid Waste Management Authority is expected to buy the facility for between $126 million and $132 million.
The recovery plan calls for $283 million in borrowing by a state economic development agency, largely to pay for city debts that include $100 million in Harrisburg Parking Authority debt. The state agency, the Pennsylvania Economic Development Financing Authority, would be repaid by receipts from the city's parking lots, garages and meters.
Harrisburg's creditors, meanwhile, have agreed to walk away from potentially more than $100 million, concessions that City Council members opposed to the takeover had long demanded as part of any debt deal.
Taxpayers are contributing to the recovery, as the city doubled its earned-income tax rate through 2016.
The plan will eliminate the incinerator debate and ensure a balanced city budget for at least the next three years, said Cory Angell, spokesman for the receiver's office.
“It gives the city a good shot at a predictable and viable economic future,” Angell said.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pa. Supreme Court in ‘sad state’ as scandals tarnish reputation
- Scam nets thousands from Mercer County woman, police say
- Police: Man used son as shield to avoid pepper spray
- Haverford gets record gift from an alum the college helped save
- Pennsylvania woman gets prison for abusing elderly husband
- Federal grand jury reviewing Liquor Control Board violations, sources tell Trib
- Bill that would end district-level review of homeschooling in Pennsylvania goes to Corbett
- Sheriff’s sale delayed for historic Conneaut Lake Park
- Sentencing in Johnstown car wash parking lot slaying delayed
- Justice blames feud for his ouster; chief of court admits he did seek to remove him