Monthly Archives: March 2011

Request for a Meeting

On March 21, 2011, DEBT WATCH HARRISBURG sent the Harrisburg Act 47 Coordinator, Julia Novak, The Novak Consulting  Group, a formal request to meet on Act 47 issues.

As well as to other members of the Act 47 team—Robert W. O’Donnell, Esquire & Gerald Cross, Executive Director Pennsylvania Economy League, this letter was sent to DWH members.

DWH will keep all members apprised of the response received from the Act 47 team.

See letter: DWH Letter to Harrisburg’s Act 47 Coordinator

Review Of ACT 47 Public Input Meetings

The Act 47 Coordinators for Harrisburg just held the only two (2) informal public meetings scheduled as part of the Act 47 process. The reviews are mixed at best. The chance for real input by citizens was limited, so now DWH wants your input on any Plans for our future. But first, a short review.

The first Act 47 event was at the YWCA on February 28. It was scheduled for two (2) hours. The room was full. People were given three (3) minutes to ask their questions and make their points. After about 20 people approached the mic, some follow-up comments occurred.

Many in the crowd were aware of various parts of our problem and quickly recognized a few errors in the presentation. The most notable mistake was what seemed to be listing Dauphin County as a guarantor of 100% of the Incinerator debt. That’s roughly a $150 million mistake. The error did not instill confidence.

Numerous residents voiced serious concerns for the future, made suggestions on cutting expenses and uniformly demanded accountability. Some just vented. The frustration swelled as the evening progressed, but it ended on time.

The second event occurred March 7 at the Heinz-Menaker Senior Center. The room was full, with many returning participants for this 2-hour session.

The frustration on the second night was evident on both sides of the microphone. A question remains for a skeptical public about why we were there. Were the Coordinators just going through the motions to “include” residents by recording a few comments and ideas to be cited in their report OR will the input of residents actually impact the direction or details of any Plan? We shall see.

It was plain the Coordinators’ viewpoint includes assumptions not accepted by all. For instance, they insist that money owed on the General Obligation debt of Harrisburg cannot be changed AND that a primary concern of a Plan must be to “satisfy creditors” — whatever that means. People were visibly unhappy with parts of the exchange. We urge everyone to recognize, however, that the ugly financial facts can’t help but lead to hard, painful discussions and choices.

A disappointment for many in the room was that the Act 47 Team made clear that they view their role as limited. They will not identify or assign blame or seek to hold anyone responsible or accountable for this debacle. They cannot investigate or address portions of the public debt, such as the School District.

The Team was very clear about what they seek to do. They will present a Plan to (1) reduce expenses (but not debt?), (2) add revenues and (3) address debt, i.e., satisfy creditors. Under that limited preconceived formula, it now appears obvious that most likely they will be recommending the sale of our public assets to the private sector, allowing a few to reap significant profits off the backs of taxpayers and ratepayers.

So now what? Now it’s your turn. DWH will be seeking to meet with the Act 47 Team to get and give information, ideas and more. So here’s your chance. Let us know your thoughts, concerns, ideas, plans and strategies. Talk with your neighbors, co-workers and family. Let us know what you think can and cannot happen in a Plan for Harrisburg. Let us know what you think taxpayers should and should not tolerate. Email us at debtwatchhbg@gmail.com.

Please let us know your thoughts and ideas. We’re entering rough waters now. We all have to be pulling oars together to turn this ship back from those rapids that lay ahead. So please help. Some of us can’t swim.