Reuters

Deep in debt, Harrisburg looks to its new 23-year-old treasurer

Harrisburg, Pa., is in rough shape. The state capital has plunged itself into crippling debt, thanks largely to a $310 million trash incinerator project that has failed to cover costs. The outlook is so bad that the city filed for bankruptcy in October. That filing was later voided by a bankruptcy judge, but the financial problems that inspired it haven’t gone away.

Facing these mounting debt issues is the city’s newly installed treasurer, John Campbell, a 23-year-old college student.

Currently pursuing dual bachelor’s degrees in business administration and economics, Campbell will have his hands full collecting the city’s taxes and trying to invest what little money is left to help bring Harrisburg’s coffers back to life. It'll especially be a challenge in this town, where the local politicians barely communicate with each other and the state has recently installed a receiver to determine how tax dollars are spent, as Reuters reports:

Campbell, a former Democratic Party official who earned an associate's degree at a Harrisburg community college and hopes to complete his bachelor's degrees by 2013, is trying to use the power of his office, once considered a backwater of city government, to bridge the financial gap.

But with the state receiver in charge of the city's finances, Campbell's flexibility is limited.

Though he supported the city's bankruptcy filing, he opposes the sale of the city's parking garages, one of Harrisburg's most dependable revenue sources. He wants to sell the indebted incinerator and the city's large collection of Wild West and African-American artifacts, leftovers from a previous mayor's obsession with making Harrisburg a museum mecca.

Campbell is also trying to bring in additional revenue by proposing a tax on commuters who work, but don’t live, in the capital city. State officials are opposed to the idea, but Campbell argues it may be one of the only ways to help the city recover. With an unconventionally young official in charge of bringing the city back, maybe unconventional ideas are just what Harrisburg needs.

Photo credit: Tim Shaffer / Reuters

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Transportation

    A Micromobility Experiment in Pittsburgh Aims to Get People Out of Their Cars

    The Pittsburgh Micromobility Collective will create all-in-one mobility hubs near transit stops, to compete with Uber and Lyft and help commuters go car-free.

  2. a photo of a NYC bus
    Transportation

    Why the Bus Got So Bad, and How to Save It

    TransitCenter’s Steven Higashide has created a how-to guide to help city leaders and public transportation advocates save struggling bus systems.

  3. Perspective

    How Cities Address the Housing Crisis, and Why It’s Not Enough

    Local officials from across the U.S. are gathering to discuss ways to address the affordable housing crisis but, they say the federal government must do more.

  4. a photo of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick in 2016.
    Transportation

    What Uber Did

    In his new book on the “Battle for Uber,” Mike Isaac chronicles the ruthless rise of the ride-hailing company and its founding CEO, Travis Kalanick.

  5. Environment

    A 13,235-Mile Road Trip for 70-Degree Weather Every Day

    This year-long journey across the U.S. keeps you at consistent high temperatures.

×