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Harrisburg Mayor Stephen Reed
questioned by members of the public

City Mayors invited those who participated in World Mayor 2006 to put questions to Harrisburg Mayor Stephen Reed, third in World Mayor 2006. From the questions received, a representative selection was forwarded to the Mayor. Below, he replies in detail, as well as with candour and thoughtfulness.

Questions & Answers
From Donald R. W., Harrisburg
Pennsylvania was the second state created in the United States of America - as a Commonwealth. Since it was one of the earliest states created, there are towns larger than some cities, many boroughs and townships, which cross over with duplications of services. These duplications consist of mayors and supervisors as well as emergency services and police - all which cost the tax payer more in the end. Harrisburg is routinely overlooked for federal and state money for infrastructure because the city's population doesn't truly reflect the size the city supports demographically. The population of Harrisburg is about 50,000 but the demographic area surrounding Harrisburg is about 500,000. Without re-drawing city lines what could be done to create a better governing body to represent this region?

Stephen Reed replies: You have accurately summarized a problem that has been vexing Pennsylvania for a long time. The way local government is set up in our Commonwealth does not lend itself to efficiency or cost effectiveness. There are 2,567 municipalities in the state. (The designation of city, township or borough has nothing to do with population. It refers to the form of local government that has been chosen by that municipality.)
It is politically unrealistic to think that municipalities are going to merge. What should occur, however, is that for commonly provided services, there should be a shared delivery system. Comparative studies have affirmed that taxdollar savings from doing so, as well as the increased levels of service performance to citizens. There are other ways to do things jointly, such as on joint landuse planning, transportation planning, etc. Local government in Pennsylvania operates with seriously outdated laws under an archaic tax system, much of it mired in 19th Century customs and practices and early 20th Century law. We can and should do far better. Do not expect politicians to lead the charge to make any changes. The impetus will have to come from an informed and aroused citizenry and the private sector.

From Herb F., Harrisburg
What developments in Harrisburg do you see putting the city on the global map?

Stephen Reed replies: There are many. The SouthGate Project, considered the largest long-term economic development project in the pipeline in Pennsylvania, will draw considerable notice because of its scale and scope, with Harrisburg being a lower-cost alternative to major East Coast, Mid-Atlantic metro centers. The Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, with its growth in coming years, is a strategic project because it focuses on workforce development, with curriculum emphasis on the high skill jobs in math, science and technologies. Technology is the engine that drives the 21st Century economy. The private sector reports that filling high skill jobs is their greatest challenge. Even second world countries are outpacing the U.S. in producing graduates with tech and other high skills. If we are to compete as a nation, this gap must be addressed. We are doing that here. This combines with our serious urban public education reform initiatives. In effect, we have created a comprehensive education system from age 3, with our new Early Childhood Program, to graduate university level. In few cities in America is this happening.

Still further, we hold great potential for being a national heritage center. The idea and vision behind building five nationally-scaled museums here was to strategically position us in what the tourism industry calls the Golden Triangle of Tourism, the area from Northern Virginia to New York City, with Philadelphia and Washington D.C. in between. With sufficient critical mass of nationally-scaled facilities --- combined with our already existing amenities--- we should see a quantum leap in our local economy as a major point of destination for tourism and heritage tourists in particular.

Finally, our continued economic development progress, growing special events schedule (now attended by over 2 million persons per year), parks improvements, idyllic waterfront, upcoming regional rail transit system – and dozens of other initiatives—shall further position us as a place with nationally recognized opportunities and activity—a recognition that has already been forthcoming over the past several years as evidenced by the different designations and awards received.

From Don & Mary, Harrisburg
Our family has been very impressed with what you have done for Harrisburg. However, the latest budgetary issues seem to have just appeared out of nowhere. Why weren't these issues anticipated and why suddenly is the budget in such a dire situation? Cutting police and fire protection seems to be a costly mistake for long range planning!

Stephen Reed replies: The budgetary constraints are not a new story. We have repeatedly warned of it for the past four years. As high inflation affected health benefit, other insurance, energy, materials and supply costs---causing increases well apace of revenue growth--- the inevitable was to have a deficit. No one listened until the problem became more dire. The fuller explanation would require pages of response here. I’d be glad to send you the full text of budget remarks that go into far greater extent on the matter. Call us at (717) 255.3040 and a copy will be promptly mailed. As for police and fire, none have been laid off. That will change if City Council refuses to do two things: eliminate most of the deficit by approving the Tax and Revenue Anticipation Note (which will be repaid by the sale of assets and not tax dollars) and approve a modest 1.5 mill property tax increase (the first increase in 6 years) to sustain current levels of operation. Not doing these two steps forces additional layoffs and we can ill afford to lose anyone else, especially police and fire.

From Eileen S., Mechanicsburg
With the city facing such a debt crisis, do you believe that your plan for the Gateway Expansion will ever come to fruition? If so, how would it be funded? Do you believe that keeping the Harrisburg Senators here is Harrisburg is more important that finding a buyer willing to pay more for the team thus being able to pay off some of the city's debt?

Stephen Reed replies: The SouthGate Project has never involved any significant city funds. We have almost entirely been utilizing federal and state dollars and will continue to do so. So yes, I strongly believe this project can and will occur and we have not slowed our pursuit of such. Keeping the baseball team in Harrisburg does not diminish the value or sales price, as we are a well proven minor league baseball market. What will affect sales price is if the baseball stadium is not expanded and upgraded in the next several years. To this end, the city has put forth its 50% share of the funding. We await the state making the commitment for their half. It is therefore likely the sales agreement for the franchise will be twofold—one price for sale with the stadium as is and a higher price if and when the stadium is expanded and upgraded.

From Douglas J. W., Harrisburg
Why don't we create an investment group and have a public stock offering to purchase the Harrisburg Senators?

Stephen Reed replies: Anyone can do this and nothing is precluding an investment group from doing so. Keep in mind that, under professional baseball rules, all investors, partners and owners of teams must be background checked so if there are many investors, that would be a more lengthy process.

From Todra P., Harrisburg
I know you are doing an amazing job on economic development in Harrisburg, but we are having a hard year when it comes to crime. How do you intend to address the growing crime rate in the city?

Stephen Reed replies: In this era—the Part I crime rate—meaning murder, arson, burglary, robbery, theft, auto theft, rape, aggravated assault—have actually dropped by more than 55%, even when taking into account the general crime spike of the past 12 months. Over the past 25 years, while the general crime trend has been downward, there have been years when increases occurred. We have that now. Access to illegal guns and crimes committed in connection with drug trafficking and addiction are, by far, the greatest factors. Many an American city is reporting the same spike in crime from the past 12 months for the same reasons. We are hardly alone in this respect. The city has seized over 1480 firearms since January, 2003. More are seized every week. We have made significant numbers of arrests. Our problem arises when repeat offenders are released back to the streets with little or no penalty. It is very common for us to be rearresting and rearresting the same individuals for serious crime and for the same persons to be out on nominal or no bail for previous arrests when they get arrested again. Simple answer: if we want the crime rate to go down, lock-up the habitual offenders and predators. They account for a disproportionately high percentage of overall crime. While confidentiality rules preclude giving details, the city has conducted extensive special operations this year to deal with gun and other crimes. Over 150 were arrested. All but 2 were serious repeat offenders. The incidence of crime has dropped somewhat as a result this year. We shall continue our ardent efforts to deal with this problem on a proactive basis.

From Doan B., Harrisburg
I would like to learn about your plans to stimulate economic growth in the African American community.

Stephen Reed replies: The city has an aggressive minority contracting program (we are not allowed to set quotas now, because of a U.S. Supreme Court decision). The result is that we routinely are awarding over 35% ---sometimes as high as 60% --- of renewal contracts to minority-owned firms. The same policies have been extended now to the school district. We have financially and otherwise supported the creation of the Minority Business Development Center with the African American Chamber of Commerce, which is helping lead the way for the start-up of new minority-owned businesses and helping existing firms to expand. We offer start-up and other loans for minority-owned entrepreneurial endeavors. And we have embraced and formally recognized a new Mentor/Protégé Program which joins majority and minority firms together in joint effort to build the capacity of smaller minority-owned firms. These efforts shall continue as they are an integral part of economic development here.

From Judy, Harrisburg
Please describe your vision of the leadership of public education in Harrisburg over the next five to ten years. How will the local school district be governed?

Stephen Reed replies: Presently, the school district is governed by a 5-member board of control appointed by the mayor and the mayor has oversight of the district under state law. That provision of law expires in less than 5 years. It may be extended but, if not, then governance would revert back to the elected school board. Under the present major reform and improvement efforts, a fine leadership core has developed which provides stability, continuity and performance that if unobstructed will provide very strong leadership for the district for years to come.

From B.K., Harrisburg
I teach in one of Harrisburg's city schools. There never seems to be enough supplies for the teachers or students. For example, we have one copier for all for us to share and it is constantly under repair. Is there any way to receive funding or find grants for new copiers or other much needed supplies?

Stephen Reed replies: I am surprised to read your report. The district has a significant budget for books, materials and supplies. Make direct contact, in writing or by phone, by the calling the mayor’s office at (717) 255.3040. Will need particulars --- which school, which copier, and such so this can be promptly addressed.

From Daz R., Harrisburg
For the past 25 years, you have overwhelmingly been supported, loved and admired by Democrats, Republicans and independents alike. What is your secret for maintaining such enormous, sustained community pride and unity and what are your plans for the city's future?

Stephen Reed replies: The “secret”, if that is what it is, is to conduct the public’s business with integrity, vision and passion; to set great goals that the city would realize its true potential; to be non-partisan (or entirely bipartisan) in the conduct of public affairs and to always place the city’s interests ahead of all others. Of course, in all of this, there has to be demonstrated performance. All the right ways and ideals in the world will not alone garner voter support. Therefore, being goal and results-oriented is key. Harrisburg was listed as the second most distressed city in America when we took office. We have since reversed three decades of precipitous decline with $4 billion in new investment, increasing the number of businesses on the taxrolls from 1,908 to over 8,900, producing sharp reductions in the crime, fire, vacant property and unemployment rates, increasing property values, creating major new park, entertainment, sports, art, cultural, education and other facilities and programs, making the City a point of destination for tourism (something though laughable even 10 years ago) to name a few items of progress. The future? Southgate Project, Northgate Project, the expansion of the new Harrisburg University, the further improvement of urban education, the complete linkage of education, higher education, workforce development and economic development to create new synergies and growth (which is happening in few U.S. cities), further residential and neighborhood renewal, further commercial advances with job creation, increased tourism and hospitality/hotel facilities --- just to name a few. The complete answer to this question could go on for ten more pages. We have a very aggressive agenda that is pursued with vigor, faith, confidence and vision. I subscribe to Theodore Burtis’ adage: “Great things do not get accomplished by setting safe, small goals.”

Harrisburg Mayor Stephen Reed ranked third in World Mayor 2006

Stephen Reed
Stephen Reed has been mayor of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania for 24 years. The longest serving mayor in the state, Mayor Reed, far from coasting, has initiated several key projects in the city since the millennium. In 2000 the Pennsylvania state legislature asked him to take on the failing school district in the city. It was the first time a mayor had taken on the role in the state. In the last five years, graduation rates are up 71 per cent, numbers continuing to higher education are up 263 per cent. In 2006 Stephen Reed came third in the annual World Mayor project.

In parallel, Mayor Reed has delivered universal 3-5 year old nursery education provision and been a leading player in the successful creation of the first new comprehensive university to be chartered in the state for 100 years. Harrisburg now proudly claims to be the only municipality in the U.S. which is establishing a formal education program for its citizens which runs from age 3 to continuing and advanced education.

The Harrisburg University of Science and Technology received its first students in August 2005. Assurance for future recruits is high as it was granted candidate accreditation status in June 2006, a year earlier than is usual for new academic institutions in the US. The status enables students and prospective students to have a wider range of financial assistance opportunities.

Reed has been involved in politics since he was at school in Harrisburg. Those who attended Bishop McDevitt High School with him in the mid 1960’s recall an earnest youngster, who seemed much older than his years. He was involved with senior school associations like the debating society whilst still very young. Politics was always his passion and he was Chair of the Pennsylvania Teenage Democrats for a period.

However, Stephen Reed didn’t complete his higher education at Dickinson College, leaving early. Many years later, they awarded him an honorary doctorate. The budding politician went to the state capitol in Harrisburg and worked for the Democratic Caucus there. This gave him an early opportunity to impress and he was selected as a candidate in the 1974 elections. These took place in the wake of Nixon’s resignation and in the resulting democrat landslide the 24 year old Reed became a state house representative. Reed served three consecutive two-year terms as a state legislator. During the last of these he doubled up as an elected commissioner of Dauphin County Council which includes Harrisburg, thus gaining his first direct local government experience. He has been in it ever since.

In 1981, aged 32, he contested Harrisburg’s mayoralty. Like many eastern cities the city has a constitution, which allows mayors dominant influence with plenty of opportunity to succeed or fail. Winning the contest, he took up office in January 1982. More