Smart Talk

Smart Talk is a daily, live, interactive program featuring conversations with newsmakers and experts in a variety of fields and exploring a wide range of issues and ideas, including the economy, politics, health care, education, culture, and the environment.  Smart Talk airs live every week day at 9 a.m. on WITF’s 89.5 and 93.3.

Listen to Smart Talk live online from 9-10 a.m. weekdays and at 7 p.m. (Repeat of 9 a.m. program)

Host: Scott LaMar

Smart Talk: Support for Civil War museum; Nickel Mines coroner

Written by Scott LaMar, Smart Talk Host/Executive Producer | Jul 27, 2015 11:00 AM
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Photo by Scott LaMar/WITF

Blue and gray flags adorn the lawn at the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg

What to look for on Smart Talk Monday, July 27, 2015:

The National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg opened to great fanfare in 2001.  It was the jewel of former Mayor Stephen Reed's vision of five nationally renowned museums in the city to attract visitors and make Harrisburg a destination.

Fourteen years later, the museum is the scene of a war of words that threatens the museum's very existence.

Current Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse has been critical of the museum saying it uses hotel tax money that could help promote other tourist sites and doesn't pay a fair rent. 

After former Mayor Reed was arrested earlier this month -- in part on charges related to how he used city funds to purchase artifacts -- Papenfuse called for the museum's board to dissolve and return the museum's contents to the city to be sold.

One of the museum's board members -- Gene Barr makes his case on Monday's Smart Talk.

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Gene Barr on Smart Talk

One of the most tragic events in central Pennsylvania history occured on October 2, 2006 when a gunmen murdered five Amish schoolgirls near Nickel Mines in Lancaster County.

Deputy Coroner Janice Ballenger was the on scene and inside the school house. 

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Ballenger wrote a book -- Addicted to Life and Death: Memoirs of an EMT and Deputy Coroner.

She joins us on Monday's Smart Talk.

See an interview conducted by the Associated Press with Janice Ballenger two days after the Nickel Mines shooting.


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  • Jason Smith img 2015-07-27 09:53

    The Civil War museum was never part of a five-museum plan. That spin came later. It was a piece of the Reed machine, envisioned as a tool to move funds and support the artifact fetishes of for Mayor Stephen R. Reed.

    Without meaningful fundraising or an endowment of its own, this entity enabled Reed to bypass normal political channels—in many of the same ways that were dubbed "racketeering" by Attorney General Kane just two weeks ago.

    It even leased parking spaces to the Parking Authority (controlled by Reed) for hundreds of thousands of dollars and moved the proceeds to the Special Projects Reserve Fund (which Reed then used to but Wild West artifacts, (as many may recall, some of these artifacts were recently dragged from his home).

    This is despicable behavior.

    While Mr. Barr may have well-meaning plans for the museum's future, none can contend that its past has been anything but a net loss for the people of Harrisburg.

    It is time to end this charade and for the county commissioners to step away from their Reed-era dealmaking. It is time to move hotel tax funds back to the city, where they were intended.

    If Mr. Barr can find support for his venture privately, I welcome him to remain in his mansion on a hill.

  • Scott LaMar img 2015-07-27 10:14

    A listener comments...
    the area is currently one of nicest and picturesque in the city. The world has numerous works of art and exhibits that were made or created thru criminal means, the Great Wall of China for example, the Pyramids etc.
    I think this is a personal matter for the mayor.

  • Jim Foster img 2015-07-27 13:10

    I have to say that I started listening to today's program with one view, and ended with another. I originally thought that the Civil War Museum was part of the corrupt legacy of the Steve Reed era, and should be closed. But, Mr. Barr made a compelling case that the Museum has become successful and is now an important part of Harrisburg's infrastructure. Now, I am inclined to believe that the Museum should stay, IF its backers can raise sufficient resources t ensure its long term viability.

  • Scott LaMar img 2015-07-28 07:36

    Amy writes...
    All IRS tax Form 990 for all 501c3 are posted on the Internet.
    For 2014 on page 8 of their return Wayne base salary is $94,415.
    Best place to search is at FoundationCenter.org. Lots of valuable info on how donor money is spent.
    Wonderful to get their side of the story out there. Thank you great show!