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Papenfuse's win could have little influence on Harrisburg's finances

Written by Craig Layne and The Associated Press | May 22, 2013 10:38 AM
eric papenfuse II.jpg

Photo by papenfuseformayor.com

(Harrisburg) -- Democratic nominee Eric Papenfuse may have his eye on the Harrisburg mayor's office after his win in the primary last night, but the victory could mean little for the city's immediate financial problems.

The Midtown Scholar Bookstore owner beat incumbent Linda Thompson and two other candidates to get his party's nod.

However, the capital city's financial future is largely in the hands of a state-appointed overseer.

Retired Gen. William Lynch could wrap up plans to resolve the city's roughly $350 million of debt and its $15 million deficit before Papenfuse and indpendent Nevin Mindlin square off in the November election.

Both Papenfuse and Thompson support Lynch's efforts to keep Harrisburg out of bankruptcy court.

Matt Fabian of municipal bond research firm Municipal Market Advisors says Lynch's presence diminishes the election's importance.

Papenfuse says while he's concerned about the city's finances, he's looking at building his policies with grassroots efforts, like neighborhood meetings.

"It's about engaging the community in conversation and discussion and building policies based on that, rather than on a top-down approach," Papenfuse says. "That is something that we've done successfully. It's something that's difficulty, but it's possible to do."

Papenfuse says other priorities include fighting urban blight, crime reduction, and education reform.

He says he's already working to establish a series of what he calls transition teams.

"We're going to take those teams on the road throughout the city of Harrisburg to engage in community conversations so that when we do take office, hopefully in the new year, we'll already have public buy-in and commitment, so people will be a part of these decisions," Papenfuse says.

You can hear an extended interview with Papenfuse on Radio Smart Talk.

Published in Harrisburg, News

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