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Dance lovers, here is your chance! Meet and learn directly from national ballroom dancing champion Christy Kam. PA DanceSport brings Kam, and her award-winning style of Country Waltz, to Hummelstown for two days only.
On Friday, Sept. 11, 2015 PA DanceSport will offer group instruction and demonstrations by Kam starting at 7:15pm sharp, for a nominal $11 entry fee. (Call ahead for availability.) Waltz with Christy Kam event.
On Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015, Kam will teach the Country Waltz and the Hustle in two sessions, one at 10am and the second at 11am and afterwards, private lessons and choreography. (Again, call PA DanceSport for availability, room is booking fast.) Hustle and Country Waltz workshops.
Formally-trained as a ballerina, Christy Kam, a Philadelphia native, loves to dance and teach. She has won numerous national and international awards, including Gold and Silver at the World Games in 2015. Learn more about her career and watch stunning videos on her website: ChristyKam.com
"LIKE" PA DanceSport's Facebook page to learn more about Christy Kam, including the few-remaining private lessons available, and to get advance notice of future exclusive events like this.
To register or for questions, contact JoAnn Tresco via email at: [email protected], or by calling the PA Dancesport Ballroom at: 717-583-0751
State of the City Address • Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, USA
Mayor Eric Papenfuse
Sept. 8, 2015
Hilton Harrisburg Hotel
(Annual Breakfast of Greater Harrisburg Chamber of Commerce and CREDC)
Address provided by the City of Harrisburg. Images provided by WHBG TV-20
Some of you may know that – long before I decided to run for elected office, or start a bookstore, or teach Latin to seventh graders – I went to graduate school to study the motivations of politicians.
Despite what you may hear in the midst of the National Civil War Museum’s controversies, I have always loved American history.
When I was in high school I won an award from the National Endowment for the Humanities to study the ratification the United States Constitution in my home state of Maryland. Later that year, I attended the Bicentennial celebrations in Philadelphia.
The keynote speaker was James Earl Jones. He gave a moving talk about how our government is fallible. Even our nation’s founding document, the Constitution, is sometimes fallible. It is not written in stone. It is meant to be “used, protected, and expanded by the people.”
Jones was an amazing orator. I was transfixed by the power of his words. Afterwards I braved the crowds to meet him. But I was so awe-struck that when I asked him to autograph my program, I accidentally walked off with his remarks, which he had mistakenly handed to me!
The pages of his speech were covered with his pencil markings, reminding himself to emphasize certain words and phrases as he spoke – most notably the “we” in “we the people.”
Today I want to talk about how WE the people of Greater Harrisburg all benefit from the City’s accomplishments, how we all have a stake in its successes, and how we all must share in its challenges.
I believe that NOW is the time for the wider community to contribute decisively to our capital city’s ongoing recovery.
What lessons can history offer us in this regard? A historical understanding of the workings of government can help us see the possibilities even in the midst of controversy.
The Constitution remains a contested document today, just as it was 230 years ago. As Jones told us, it was intended to be a living document, something for future generations to improve – and amend.
In 1787, the great political controversy was between Federalists who advocated for a strong central government, and more radical voices who were concerned about the consolidation of power and so opposed the Constitution’s ratification.
In graduate school I published a prize-winning essay on how the Antifederalists, as they were called, came to terms with a plan for a union they believed was simply too “strong.”The Antifederalists were among America’s earliest grass-roots political activists. Some of them rallied people in the streets, to demand a pathway for amendments.
Some of them believed that it would only take a new President’s “good administration” to counteract the Constitution’s defects. Others put their trust in leaders like Thomas Jefferson, who famously said that “Half a loaf is better than no bread.” Though amendments were needed, they could be put in place later, after the states had adopted the Constitution.
And that’s exactly what happened. Three years after the Constitution was ratified, three years after America’s “Great Experiment” of a democratic republic began, Congress adopted the Bill of Rights. Thanks to these amendments, many of the new government’s initial detractors eventually became its staunchest supporters.
Today, in Harrisburg, it is with a reminiscent nod to our nation’s contested founding that I say to you this morning: now is the time for we the people to work in unison to amend the Harrisburg Strong Plan.
Let me explain why this is the most urgent question facing us.
Three years into our city’s “great experiment” of the Strong Plan, it has become clear that, despite the state’s earlier assurances to the contrary, Harrisburg will not have sufficient revenues in 2016 to meet its required operating expenses.
This defect in the Strong Plan’s framing cannot be remedied by cost-cutting alone.
The City now employs just 369 workers – down from a high of 667 positions less than a decade ago.
And while the City is starving for capacity, we have already cut discretionary funding to the bone. 2015 will mark the second year in a row that we have significantly underspent our adopted budget. That is simply not a sustainable course.
The bad news is that, without amending the Strong Plan, our revenues next year look to be six million dollars beneath the recovery plan’s projections.
To put that six million dollar number in perspective, that represents nearly 10 percent of 2015’s adjusted budget. In addition, our fixed costs are rising quickly – from pensions to healthcare to insurance.
So where did the Strong Plan go wrong?
Estimates were essentially too optimistic for both the Earned Income Tax and the new parking revenues.
Yes, hundreds of millions of dollars in long-term debt was triumphantly wiped from the City’s books. But unfortunately, years of irregular city accounting masked a long-standing structural deficit that was years in the making, and far more insidious than the Receiver’s team realized.
Now that the accounting has been done, my commitment to true transparency and responsible civic planning dictates that we the people must come to terms with this deficit without delay.
Ultimately, I believe I was elected to ensure that Harrisburg never again falls prey to the mistakes of the past – never again spends irresponsibly without a means of paying its bills – and never again postpones hard truths by putting a financial burden on future generations.
The GOOD NEWS this morning is that it is NOT TOO LATE for corrective action.
Last year I described the state of our city as resilient. Ever resourceful, we remain engaged and up to the challenges that confront us. In a word, the state of our great capital city today in 2015 is can-do!
If we come together in the face of adversity, we CAN solve this crisis! It will require continued sacrifice, straight talk, and collective action. But it can be done!
It is, therefore, with unrelenting optimism that I offer this three-point plan to secure our future:
First, we must amend the Strong Plan to raise the Local Services Tax from $1 per week to $3. This is the fairest tax increase we can propose because it will not burden the working poor, seniors on fixed incomes, or the unemployed.
Recent changes to Act 47 allow distressed municipalities to petition the court for an LST increase, and we must take advantage of this additional revenue stream immediately. It should bring in over four million dollars annually.
To all the employers in this room, here’s what you can do: help me convey the message to each and every worker within the City limits that Harrisburg’s recovery - and indeed the region’s stability - requires this additional sacrifice of just $2 more per week. That’s less than a cup of coffee at the Hilton or even the Sunday Patriot News.
Second, we must continue to invest in and improve the City’s sanitation services. That is the one revenue source for the City which is currently out-performing expectations and has room for growth.
By expanding sanitation operations, we, as a City, will be able to build capacity in much-needed neighborhood services. Adequately staffing sanitation will allow more pot-holes to be filled, trees to be trimmed, and parks to be maintained. In fact, sanitation is the one area of the budget that can afford to see new hiring in 2016.
By rejecting privatization and rethinking what it means to be a clean and green city, we can simultaneously reduce general fund obligations and also save for much needed long-term capital improvements like a new public works facility.
The sanitation fund, if carefully managed, can even serve as a low-interest means of lending to the general fund, which will help the city become ever more self-sufficient in the future.
Again, to all the City businesses in this room, here is what you can do: if you are currently using an unauthorized private hauler or know a company that does, please help us transition these accounts back to the City’s sanitation department. This includes, I am sorry to say, CREDC’s own Front Street offices, along with over 350 other large accounts that are right now defying City ordinances and draining much needed revenues from the system.
I appeal to every City business to support our recovery. Rather than contesting trash rates or suing the City, we need business owners to recognize that – by increasing your recycling, which is free, you can essentially control your costs.
That is exactly what the School District has done. After years without a recycling program, the City’s rates adopted in 2013 have spurred them into action, and taxpayers are benefiting from the results.
Finally, as a can-do city, Harrisburg is full of ideas. I am pleased to report this morning that, through the comprehensive plan’s engagement strategy, the public has already voiced over 842 specific suggestions on how to make our City better.
Just like the Antifederalists who mobilized ordinary citizens to push for a Bill of Rights, WE need to harness the vox populi and engage the public directly, as we work for amendments in the Strong Plan’s recovery process.
To this end, my third proposal to move the city forward is to shift to Home Rule.
Next year I will introduce an ordinance in City Council to begin the process by placing on the ballot the question of establishing a government study commission. We need to transfer basic authority back from the state to the municipality. It will take time but the discussion must start now – because, ultimately, Home Rule is Harrisburg’s only real way out of Act 47.
These three bold, clear initiatives will get the Strong Plan back on track. And lest you think it cannot be done, let me tell you why I believe it can!
Time and again over the past year, even when it seemed impossible, our City’s can-do spirit has triumphed.
Take the 14th Street sinkhole. When the estimates came in that remediation would cost millions of dollars, the City never lost hope.
First, we organized and hosted a Sinkhole Summit, which prompted the Federal Emergency Management Agency to change their policies regarding sinkhole eligibility.
Then we worked tirelessly for many months to apply for a Federal Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant.
Less than two weeks ago, against all odds, the City received a letter from the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency informing us that our application has been ranked “#1 in the State.”
Cooperation with Dauphin County on this effort continues. And, while there is no guarantee of funding, by never giving up we have revealed our determined and compassionate character as a City.
Now that’s can-do.
Even as we were receiving the good news about our sinkhole mitigation application, the City also won a decisive, game-changing ruling from our newly established mercantile license and tax appeals board.
The Board thoughtfully weighed all the evidence in its first appeals case, and then voted unanimously to revoke the license of a “nuisance” business. Another problem business simply shut down with the threat of City action pending.
This important ruling, issued just a few days ago, will continue to have a measurable ripple effect throughout the community. It is helping us at last clean up problem businesses that detract from our City’s quality of life.
I say - Can do!
In another example, we recognize that we have to make Harrisburg more conducive to responsible development projects. Over the past year, my administration has worked successfully to pass a tax abatement program. Our carefully crafted plan will serve as a model for other Pennsylvania municipalities.
The bill that City Council passed in May after months of debate contains provisions for job creation, the hiring of City residents, and the participation of minority businesses, as well as protections for organized labor – while also providing up to ten years of full abatement of new taxes on improvements to properties as well as on new construction.
The City urgently needs this initiative, and I need your help to encourage the County Commissioners to stop delaying and pass LERTA.
What say you? Can do?
Many individuals have been DOING a lot on behalf of the City. I want to take a few minutes to acknowledge some of the people who have aided in Harrisburg’s recovery at the grass-roots level, on the streets and in our neighborhoods.
Who would have thought we would have both city pools open for the first summer in seven years? Though the pools have each outlived their useful life expectancies, we scraped, patched, painted, rewired, fixed leaks and eventually got both open in time to provide a useful respite for our youth and families during a hot summer.
I want to applaud Tarik Casteel and TLC Construction for donating their services to re-roof the Hall Manor Pool. This represents an estimated $25,000 cost savings for the City. Tarik, please stand.
How about that gentleman for can-do?
Let me also thank Jamal Jones, Manager of Young Adult Programs with ResCare Workforce Services via Pennsylvania Career-Link.
This summer, working with Karl Singleton, Jamal assisted in the Mayoral Call to Action for Summer Employment by engaging twenty businesses. This led to the hiring of 42 young people between the ages of 14-23.
Jamal, please stand and be recognized for all that you can – and did - do.
Having participated myself by sponsoring a 15-year-old student’s paid internship at the Midtown Scholar Bookstore, I have seen first-hand what a difference this program is making to our youth. It is absolutely essential that we, as a community, resolve to expand the number of openings next year.
Will every employer in this room pledge to give one Harrisburg teen or young adult an opportunity for eight weeks’ employment next summer?
Let me hear you say it all with one loud voice – can do!
You have seen how the City is getting cleaner and greener, thanks to the roll-out of new trash cans and recycling. We have taken a recycling rate that was abysmal and increased it considerably – more than doubling our numbers since the last year.
With larger bins and the easy-to-use single-stream concept, business and residential recycling is still growing exponentially. In May 2015 we recycled 67 tons, in June we recycled 78 tons, and in July we recycled 106 tons. And by addressing some compliance and reporting issues, we are still on track to hit the City’s annual put-or-pay minimums.
This very night, the City’s LED streetlight conversion project will be voted on by City Council. After reaching out to dozens of financial institutions, I’m glad to report that M & T Bank stepped up and agreed to finance the three-million-dollar-plus guaranteed-energy-savings project.
M&T representatives told Council they believed in and wanted to be a part of the City’s recovery. So let’s pause to thank M&T Bank for saying can-do.
Last year, we promised the 311 system would be ready to go. Not only are we the first city in the region to have implemented it, but operators are fielding an average of 150 calls a day.
The City website now offers a searchable knowledge database, a popular live chat feature, and an internal ticketing system. Together this has led to greater accountability and better communication with residents.
The best part is that we did all this in-house, with a shoestring budget. In other cities 311 systems have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to implement. Next year, thanks to our sanitation fund, we should be able to hire another help-desk operator, which will further speed up the City’s response time.
I said get it done, and our communications team said can-do. That’s how my administration works.
We weren’t looking for a fight with the NRA and other gun lobbyists, but the City stood firm when the state legislature passed an unconstitutional act allowing groups without standing to sue us to repeal gun-control ordinances and collect damages.
Other municipalities throughout the state caved to the enormous pressure of powerful special interests, but the City defended its laws –one of which, the discharge ordinance, dates back to 1821. Given the recent Commonwealth Court ruling, we expect to prevail.
The moral of the story is… when other cities said we can’t, Harrisburg said can-do!
I bet no one in this room thought we’d be able to lower parking rates. But the City pushed to lower rates by a dollar from 5-7 pm on weeknights, and offer a 4-hour coupon code for free parking on Saturdays.
We bet that rates could be lowered and meter income would increase. And to date, we are winning that wager.
Meter revenues are currently one of the bright spots for the parking system. The City hasn’t had to spend a penny of its guarantee, while we have brought a small measure of relief to hundreds of parkers every month since April – including festival-goers this past Kipona weekend.
Dave Black, admit it! When I first suggested using hotel tax dollars to backstop the parking system and lower meter rates, you thought I was crazy. Now what do you say?
Last year, we promised to ensure all City festivals were budgeted in a transparent manner by bringing them on the books instead of paying for them through off-budget T&A accounts, as had been the practice for decades.
We also pledged that the festivals would not become a burden on taxpayers. I’m very grateful to the corporate donors who have helped us raise the necessary funds to make this a reality.
Let’s take a moment to thank leading sponsors such as Highmark, PHFA, and Pinnacle Health, which have stepped forward repeatedly to support the City in its time of recovery.
They show others what we can do together.
Big changes require a spirit of collaboration.
A year ago we had an insurance lobbyist as the Chief Recovery Officer for the Harrisburg School District – a man who had essentially given up on students’ making any measurable academic progress.
This year, working closely with Senator Rob Teplitz, Representative Patty Kim, the School Board, and the Department of Education, we have an experienced educator in Audrey Utley. She understands the needs of urban school districts and is eager to collaborate with the City administration.
Now we must roll up our sleeves and do what is in the best interests of our youth – work we must and can do!
At the same time, my administration’s relationship with City Council continues to improve. Three new voices will bring energy and renewed commitment to their positions as Councilors next year. Soon we will cut the ribbon on the Council’s newly relocated third-floor City Hall offices.
Their old offices, with funding from the City Hall Beautiful Fund, will be renovated into a community room for youth mentoring and other much needed programming.
Let me thank the Harrisburg Rotary as well as the family of Governor George Leader for having already helped us completely renovate the former Victims’ Room in the Public Safety Building as well as the Police roll-call and break rooms.
Today, these spaces are much more welcoming for families – a better, less stressful environment for Harrisburg’s Finest than anyone could have imagined when I led my inauguration-day tour of City Hall less than two years ago.
In case you missed it, something amazing happened at a Public Safety Committee hearing in Council’s chambers last week.
A representative from This Stops Today Harrisburg /Black Lives Matter engaged Police Chief Thomas Carter in a dialogue about the need for a citizens review board – a conversation that might have turned heated and accusatory in many other cities.
Instead, Chief Carter shook hands with the young man, listened respectfully, and went on to outline his vision for compassionate policing, in which officers work daily to bridge the gap between law enforcement and the community through positive interactions. The two agreed that Harrisburg has much to be proud of.
Then City Risk Manager Carlesha Halkias explained how the City was looking to re-write Civil Service requirements to bring greater diversity to our police force.
And Community Policing Officer Dave Botero noted the police department’s cooperation with the YWCA and the Criminal Justice and Community Relations Task Force, which has resulted in a series of successful and well-attended police diversity training workshops.
My point is that despite the negative headlines that echo throughout the nation, the Harrisburg Police Department continues to make news for all the right reasons.
Chief Carter, Captains Moody and Wetzel, Dave Botero, Officers Hammer and Diaz, please stand and accept a well-deserved round of applause.
Whether it is Chief Carter’s talking yet another suspect into a peaceful, personal surrender, or Officer Josh Hammer’s playing a pick-up game of hoops with a few kids in a video that goes viral, the Harrisburg Police Department’s can-do spirit constantly shines through.
Officer Hammer took time out to join me on Channel 20 to discuss how racial perceptions differ between police and the public at large and how we must learn to walk in each other’s shoes. We aired that particular show while other nearby cities were streaming violent images of rioting and racial strife.
Let us not forget, as well, that young officer Angel Diaz showed superior judgment in not returning fire while in pursuit of a suspect. In April I commended such restraint as the better part of valor. We have too often seen how violent escalations in other cities have only led to greater conflict.
Throughout the City our can-do spirit is leading to measurable improvements in residents’ lives.
Last winter, for instance, the Fire Bureau was dispatched for a seemingly routine call for a carbon monoxide alarm sounding.
Our firefighters responded quickly and, upon investigation, found that the occupants were in danger due to a faulty furnace.
This simple call for service resulted in a chain of positive interactions between various city departments that led to the homeowner getting a new energy-efficient HVAC system installed in their home by the City’s Department of Building and Housing at no cost to the family.
And let me tell you another thing that Fire Chief Brian Enterline can do – that’s manage a budget. Thanks to the hiring and training of new firefighters, overtime is down from 2.8 million dollars just two years ago to under $900,000 today. Let’s give Chief Enterline and Deputy Chief Souder a round of applause.
In January 2014 Building and Housing Director Roy Christ called the City’s contact at HUD, Yolanda Brown, to introduce himself and learn how he might begin to address the many years of negative findings that had been piling up against his department.
She responded that Harrisburg had been so mismanaged that nothing could ever make up for the past. Yet Roy slowly went to work to address the historic problems, one by one.
Just two weeks ago, Yolanda was the first to call and congratulate the City on securing a new HUD grant for 3.7 million dollars to combat lead poisoning and develop a healthy home initiative. That is as much funding as was received by far bigger cities like New York, Baltimore and Philadelphia. In fact, Harrisburg is by far the smallest municipality to win this highly competitive award.
Then, there is the story of Ms. Layla Abdullah. Through the City’s Home Improvement Program, her home has been fully renovated with a new furnace, new electrical systems, a new roof, and new plumbing. New sidewalks are outside her house and the abandoned building next door has been demolished. She’s seen the City’s can-do spirit first hand.
Ms. Abdullah is here today, to thank the City for a job well done. Let’s thank her in return.
Slowly but surely, our economy continues to improve. The average sales price of a house in Harrisburg has jumped by over $10,000 in the past year alone. As confidence builds, more and more businesses are expanding.
Chef Obi and Nicole Linton started Soul Burrito out of a food truck, which had so many hundreds of thousands of miles on it you wouldn’t believe it could still run. They later expanded to the business incubator of the Broad Street Market, where they perfected their recipes. Now, they have opened a full-scale restaurant on Walnut Street with plans to continue to grow their business by offering city-wide delivery.
Let’s recognize this extraordinary couple’s can-do spirit and commitment to building their business right here in Harrisburg!
When Ivan Black saw a building in Midtown Harrisburg that had been one of those “nuisance” businesses the City helped shut down, he saw new possibilities. He wanted to be part of the neighborhood’s revitalization and has established a bright, brilliant fitness studio in a building that once trafficked in anything but a healthy lifestyle.
Ivan, we wish you continued success with Next Step Performance and thank you for investing your time and unlimited can-do energy in Harrisburg.
This past Labor Day weekend, Brian Labine and Francine Walker, moved their chemical laboratory business from Mechanicsburg into a beautiful, newly renovated warehouse on 7th Street. There they burn argon at the temperature of the sun to determine whether substances as varied as department store cosmetics and pineapples contain traces of lead, arsenic, cadmium, or mercury.
With them, they bring 23 full and two part-time new jobs to Harrisburg and they hope to hire another ten employees over the next year.
Brian and Francine, thank you for your can-do vision.
I also want to recognize the exemplary work of the Harrisburg Regional Diversity Coalition and Juanita Edrington-Grant. I concluded last year’s State of the City address with a challenge. How would we ensure that the rising tide of economic development would lift all boats?
The HRDC is doing just that by ensuring impartial access to contracting and employment opportunities for historically hard-to-place citizens and MBEs throughout the Capitol region.
Juanita has labored tirelessly in leading her organization, CRAM, which helps meet the needs of ex-offenders and their families. The City has used CDBG dollars to support these important efforts.
The Harrisburg Uptown Building, or HUB, represents the culmination of Juanita’s vision. Formerly used by the Hamilton Health Center, the property offers 18,000 square feet of building space as well as 1.4 acres of vacant, once-blighted land.
By creating new, affordable residences in uptown Harrisburg, the HUB will engage minority and women-owned business enterprises and address critical needs in our community.
Juanita, you are truly can-do.
Will you all HRDC members please stand and be recognized?
I want to conclude my remarks by returning to where we started, with my graduate research on the Antifederalists and the essay I wrote nearly twenty years ago. The title, incidentally, was “Unleashing the Wildness.” It seems particularly apropos given the “wilding out” our City experienced last Saturday night.
At the very end of Philadelphia’s 1787 Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin, mindful of the political opposition, said to a constituent – you have a republic – “if you can keep it.”
To the grass-roots leaders I studied then, “keeping it” meant amending the government’s defects. They faced manifold challenges, both political and financial. But they never gave up and realized that “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.”
The new nation, like Harrisburg, would need new sources of revenue.
The new nation, like Harrisburg, would need effective administration and leadership.
But most importantly, the new nation would need to embrace the democratic spirit of the age by expanding on the very meaning of that we – in “we the people” – and welcoming all-comers.
Whether inside this room or out, we will all need to come together, to restore Harrisburg’s prosperity.
And I, like Franklin, am an indomitable optimist.
On the last day of the Constitutional Convention, when the Antifederalists had walked out in protest even as other delegates were signing the document, Franklin looked at the half-sun carved on the back of a chair in Independence Hall and famously remarked that, while he had looked at the chair many times before, he at last was certain it was “a rising and not a setting sun.”
So, too, I am confident that Harrisburg’s best days lie ahead.
Thank you for your time this morning. Thank you for your trust. And thank you for your ongoing commitment to our great City.
Address provided by the City of Harrisburg. Images provided by WHBG TV-20
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