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Brown Wilson Goes Down

Even government officials are not immune from breaking the law.  This was definitely the case with Susan Brown Wilson, a councilwoman from Harrisburg.  She has been accused of not paying her court fines amounting to hundreds of dollars.  Brown Wilson was thus confronted by Harrisburg state constable Shotzberger last week.

Councilwoman Dodges Taxes

According to the court documents that were recently brought to light, councilwoman Brown Wilson did not file earned income taxes for the years 2001, 2002, 2006 and 2008. Part of these monies go directly to Harrisburg.  While she did actually settle these a few months ago, the fines associated with late payment remain unpaid.  Apparently she was on a payment plan, but details are not yet known.  According to Capital Area Constables Association spokesman, William Stoeffler, as far as he knew, “one payment had been made, and no subsequent payments came after that.”  While Brown Wilson was recently confronted by the Harrisburg state constable in person, this was not before other – less confrontational methods – had been attempted.  She was contacted by mail and notice was also left at her residence.

It seems that Brown Wilson’s current debt to the city of Harrisburg totals $581.25.

Insane Growth of Harrisburg School District

It seems that there just isn’t enough room for all the Harrisburg kids to get an education as the situation stands right now.  The schools are literally bursting at the seams in Harrisburg and its middle and elementary school are really close to full capacity; hence they won’t have any room for expansion. As would be expected in such a situation, monies are needed once more.  In fact, the district is now asking its electorate to say “yes” to a $38 million bond.

As Rich Schneider, the school principal for the city’s Middle School pointed noted that once capacity is reached, either portables will have to be used or add-ons, both of which require finances.  According to Jim Holbeck, the city’s Superintendent, there is even the thought of bussing kids between schools but this would only “be a one-year fix and then we’ll be right back at the same place.”  Thus, as he concluded, “There’s no good plan B.”

It’s good news for Harrisburg of course, on the one hand, that the city is expanding so much as this suggests it’s a good place to live and especially to raise kids since so many of the people have school-age kids.  But clearly it’s a problem that warrants a solution, and, as in most of these instances, finances are needed and cue to Harrisburg’s recent flooding issues, not something that is so readily available.

Harrisburg Cancels Holiday Parade

Every year the city of Harrisburg enjoys a Holiday Parade.  This year it was scheduled for November 19 but will not take place due to financial problems the city is incurring, which probably was not helped by its recent flood.  In addition, while Harrisburg usually receives sponsors for its parade, this year no businesses came forward at all with an offer.

Big Harrisburg Debt

The truth of the matter is, Harrisburg has to face reality and its financial situation is not looking good.  The city is up against huge amounts of debt right now – currently $310m in unpaid bonds for the incinerator as well as close to $300m of other debts etc.  Thus to spend $30,000 now on a Parade would at best, be inappropriate, even though it’s been a Harrisburg tradition since 1986 and always ends up supporting the city’s local businesses.

What will happen in the future to Harrisburg and its entertainment remains to be seen. There is now talk of the possibility of canceling the fireworks the city usually enjoys on New Year’s Eve.  By the end of the month they’ll know if they have the sponsors needed for this.

Clearly the city has to work hard to get out of debt.  That must be a priority.  But in the meantime, it has to realize that to make money, money has to be spent. And these entertainment activities are always good for local businesses so that must be brought into the calculation as well.

Getting in Some Harrisburg Culture

The summer seems to be ending.  But that does not necessarily mean that all the fun has to stop as well.  Indeed, there is still a lot happening in Harrisburg now and in the near future.  For those wanting a bit of culture, the Theatre Harrisburg has a lot on offer right now.  While the summer is bowing out, Christmas is on its way and next month you can already start getting into the spirit of the holiday with the performance, ‘A Christmas Story,’ by Leigh Brown, Bob Clark and Jean Shepherd, produced with the Dramatic Publishing Company of Woodstock, Illinois.

Located at 513 Hurlock Street, Harrisburg, the Theatre Harrisburg has a reputation for entertaining the whole family.  A Christmas Story is no different.  This is the original version of the popular movie classic and will give everyone a warm feeling in time for the holidays.  Playing between 4-20 November, this will be a perfect jump start to the upcoming Christmas holiday, appropriate for the entire family.

Rebuilding Harrisburg After Flood

It seems that out of the entire region, it was Harrisburg that suffered the most from the flood in more ways than just financial.  Many of the city’s areas are facing difficult green issues, such as downed trees which don’t seem to be such a priority for the city that really has its plate full with everything else it has to deal with to try and adjust after the flood.

Thankfully however, help is at hand.  A volunteer group will be engaging in a citywide tree restoration plan for the city!  This work has been going on for some time already.  Indeed, one of the volunteers – John First – began work on this back in June, on the task force.  According to a recent news article this was important to First as he realized just how much the houses in the area needed their shade which has disappeared after what has happened to the trees.

Thus the group aims to plant new trees; take care of the ones that are damaged and build a citizen-friendly database which “will allow city planners and citizens alike to know where each tree is located in the city. To know how old it is, has it had any problems.”

Great Plan for Harrisburg

Clearly this volunteer program is showing that every cloud has a silver lining.  True, it’s been terrible how Harrisburg and its residents have taken the toll following the flood.  But this volunteer project is a great new start for the city, and it shows unity and a sense of community spirit, bringing together people who might otherwise not have been involved as they want to see their city recover and improve.  As First notes, “the city’s broke and this is about citizens coming together and working together and that’s what this is all about it’s about bringing together all of the different neighborhoods together.”  There’s a good chance he will be proved correct.

Foose School Meets Broadway

Harrisburg’s Foose School sang and danced the month of September away, entertaining their audience with scenes and music from 42nd Street, Girl Crazy and Pippin.  More than 100 fifth and sixth grade students took part in Rosie’s Theater Kids – a NYC based art program for underprivileged kids, led by Rosie O’Donnell.  Fifteen thousand dollars of the funds were donated by Shipley Energy.  This enabled the group to come to Harrisburg.

It was indeed “thrilling” for O’Donnell “to be able to offer these kids at Foose Elementary this introduction to musical theater,” she said in an email.  She loves the whole acting thing, in the same email claiming that Broadway and the arts, “changed [her] life and gave [her] hope.”

The kids at the school got so much from this program.  Children who had never been privileged enough to take lessons but just enjoy dancing and singing at home, were, for the first time, able to actually get real lessons, from a professional instructor.  One kid at the school, 10-year-old Saul Ramos, in a recent article in Penn Live was reported to have said, “it’s cool because everybody can see me.”  Along with another student, Ramos got a special honor and was given $2,000 scholarship which will enable him to study at Rosie’s Theater Kids’ summer camp in New York for a week next August.  He will meet O’Donnell, Broadway celebrities and a talent agent as well as getting professional headshots.

From Harrisburg’s Foose School to Broadway?  Stranger things have happened.  This really could be just a start for these underprivileged kids.  Way to go Harrisburg.

Crime at Shady McGrady’s Bar

Over the weekend, at 5 am on Saturday morning, Shady McGrady’s bar was broken into and an attempt was made to burn it down.  It will be at least a month before it opens again. And that’s thanks to the Harrisburg Bureau of Fire that managed to put the fire out before the place was totally burned down.

But it seems this isn’t going to be put off the regulars, like Charlie Debrenner who frequents the bar every Saturday, drinks his two beers, and then heads home.  He brought lawn chairs, his sons Ben and Andy, and a case of beer down to Shady McGrady’s and continued with his tradition, exchanging laughter, chit-chat and beer-sipping.

It was the kind of place that people would frequent during power outages as McGrady’s always stayed open. It was more than just a place to enjoy a beer (with 80 different types on tap) – women would sing and people felt like it was a community hang-out.  So now they’re passing around pretzels on the lawn until the reopening.

Harrisburg to Raise Parking Rates?

That’s just what the city of Harrisburg needs right now after all it’s been through recently. First the whole city is flooded and now residents are going to be faced with additional fees whenever they go out and need to park their cars.  But perhaps this won’t be met with such distaste since according to Harristown Enterprises VP, Brad Jones, “everyone understands that the city “needs money right now.”  That may be the case, but there is not necessarily a consensus on how these monies should be raised.

Indeed, various local businessmen, such as McGrath Pub owner Tom Scott, are somewhat skeptical about the decision too.  As it is the current prices are hardly cheap, with downtown areas charging $1.50 every hour, requiring around six quarters at a time, forcing car owners to keep coming out to put more money in, further disrupting their day and thus their business too.  If prices increase, it would be almost double, to $2.50.  As well, free parking after 5pm during the week and over the weekend will end.

This is definitely not a popular move with small business owners in the city who feel it will harm their businesses.

Funny Times in Harrisburg?

Can Harrisburg Residents Laugh Again Following the City’s Recent Flooding?

The residents of Harrisburg haven’t had all that much to smile about recently.  The huge flooding the city encountered – along with its sad economic situation and possible takeover – hasn’t exactly led to giggling in the streets.  But perhaps even amidst all this doom and gloom, there has been a glimpse of a silver lining.  Or at least an opportunity has been created to give the people of Harrisburg something to smile about for a little while.

Last weekend, Michael Feldman hosted a public radio variety show, called “Whad’Ya Know?” that was broadcast again on Sunday on WITF 89.5 which – for those tuned in – definitely generated a lot of laughs.  Feldman attacked the city’s current Mayor, Linda Thompson, terming her the “mayor-not-for-life” as he had, on a previous comedy tour, named the other mayor, Stephen R. Reed, the “mayor-for-life.”  A huge rib-tickling chuckle was evident from the audience.

Indeed, the man attracts close to one million listeners every week with his comedy routine that seems to have been able to get a giggle even in tough times.  He has a section entitled, “Harrisburg news that isn’t,” and on his most recent show he discussed the city’s debt-ridden incinerator.  As recorded in Penn Live, Feldman said, “most towns build aquariums. That’s the big thing. Let’s build an incinerator … Great idea. … We can burn the garbage in it. It’s a money maker. Wish I could have been there for the pitch.”

And of course, it’s always great to be able to laugh at one’s problems which the comedian encouraged his listeners to do.  When Feldman pointed out that “Harrisburg was also No. 7 among recession-proof cities because what the heck else could go wrong, really?” how could listeners not laugh?

Feldman’s Critics

Although the show did receive some criticism for being too harsh on the city’s Mayor who is trying her best under extremely challenging circumstances, Thompson was defended by Corky Goldstein, former City Council member, and one of the show’s guests. So there was some kind of balance.

And, truth be told, if you can’t laugh at your problems, you’ll only cry, so surely Feldman really touched the spot when he took the recent misfortunes of Harrisburg and let people see them from a funny point of view instead.