My remarks on the panel surrounded three main points, which I will summarize below:
1. Politics is negotiation. No one gets 100 percent. The key players in the City of Harrisburg came together and agreed on a plan to move Harrisburg forward, which is the first step. Although not perfect and there are many uncertainties concerning the plan, it is important that everyone is on the same page, and for the most part that seems to be the case now.
The focus needs to stay on the big picture and what is best for the city and its residents. Unfortunately, the city is limited with funds, large due to the fact that half of the city's tax base is exempt, and most of that land is owned by the state. A legislative task force recently ended and will propose legislation with changes to the Act 47 law, which addresses distressed cities. Changes will include tax options, for cities with limited tax bases.
2. As Harrisburg movies forward, there will be options available such as keystone opportunity zones, which are already being utilized; creating a land bank for blighted and abandoned property, and the city should also consider creating a neighborhood improvement district.
3. The Harrisburg School District must be a priority. Without a good education, children will not be able to find good jobs and rise above the cycle of poverty. Furthermore, poor education and lack of jobs leads to crime. High crime will affect business growth and new residents moving into the city.
There are a lot of problems in Harrisburg, but the city is finally in a position to start to deal with them together. As long as key players continue to compromise for the good of the city, and put personal motives behind, Harrisburg will be on the road to fulfill its greatest potential.