The Harrisburg Miasma = Pennsylvania's Miasma

The thing that gets me about the fiscal mess in Harrisburg these days.  The city is so broke it is seeking bankruptcy. Even if that does not go forward, why are they in this situation?  Is the city itself that mismanaged?  Even if you want to think so, the actual fiscal miasma they are dealing with is from a debt owed by something called the “Harrisburg Authority” for building of all things a garbage incinerator.  The full story was written up by the Patriot News earlier in the year.

The real story here, IMHO, is not really about anything specific to Harrisburg, but what this all says about public governance in Pennsylvania.  How many folks really paid attention to whatever public debate there was over the garbage incinerator that has created their current predicament?   All the public authorities and special districts in Pennsylvania create an impossible to decipher mosiac of governance that leads to these problems.   Pennsylvania is by far the most fragmented state in the nation when it comes to local governance.  Most focus on municipalities when they think about that, but it goes far beyond boroughs and townships and cities…  few people really think about the secondary costs of all the ‘other’ governments we have out there.   Why is there a generic “Harrisburg Authority” in existence if not to obscure the public governance.  There is even an Equipment Leasing Authority here in the City of Pittsburgh that is nominally an independent public authority according to the laws of Pennsylvania.

How bad is it? A version of a graphic I made in the past is below.. when you lay out all the official and distinct governments in Pennsylvania this is what you get. Each government is scaled by the number of employees it has. You never know what will jump up and bite you. Somewhere in there is the “Harrisburg Authority”.  From obscurity to what is becoming national news and beyond.

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1 comment to The Harrisburg Miasma = Pennsylvania’s Miasma

  • E.J.Knittel

    The incinerator was only the surface of the mess, it is more of the “deals’ and exchange of money between the bond, underwriter, etc which contributed to the mess. Also the lack of attention by the public.

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