Just one month after the PA Senate Democratic Policy Committee hosted a roundtable discussion on the difficulties and struggles of Pennsylvania’s Third Class cities, another Senator comes to the forefront to call for greater attention to the plight of the State’s fiscally challenged core communities.
On Friday, January 18th, Senator John Wozniak announced his proposal for a Third Class City Caucus, a bi-partisan group of legislators with the sole purpose of analyzing, discussing, and acting on solutions to the deterioration of more and more of PA’s 53 Third Class Cities. Currently, ten of these cities are in the State’s Municipal Financial Recovery program, Act 47, including the capital, City of Harrisburg.
It’s precisely Harrisburg’s well-publicized fiscal problems that have spurred the PA’s Legislature to look closely at the plight of Third Class cities. Over the past year, legislators from both parties in the House and Senate have joined to hold public hearings on the Act 47 program in an attempt to consider its effectiveness and potency. On the day of its roundtable discussion in one of the City of Harrisburg’s most impoverished neighborhoods, the Senate Democratic Policy Committee launched the Growth, Progress, & Sustainability for Pennsylvania’s Urban Areas Plan to address the fact that the State’s aging urban centers are become increasingly distressed and turning to the Act 47 Plan to little avail.
Talking points that have been broached in the general discussion on Act 47 and Third Class cites include greater State oversight; modernization of local governments and infrastructures; regionalism and shared services; private/public partnerships; taxation powers of municipalities; new revenue sources; and economic development.
As released by the Office of Senator John Wozniak, D-35:
Wozniak Proposes 3rd Class City Caucus in Harrisburg
HARRISBURG, Jan. 18, 2013—As the state’s capital remains on the brink of bankruptcy and cities across Pennsylvania are faring little better, state Sen. John N. Wozniak is forming a legislative coalition to push for aggressive action to end the decline.
In a letter to House and Senate colleagues, Wozniak noted that, while Pennsylvania’s historic downtowns are unique, the fiscal problems they face are not.
“Sprawl, changing demographics, public safety concerns and archaic tax structure have drained the vitality of our once-vibrant downtowns,” Wozniak wrote. “Since the causes are not unique, we can’t stand by and ask local government officials to stem a tide that is overwhelming their capacity and authority to innovate.”
Wozniak proposes a “Third-Class City Caucus,” a coalition of lawmakers who have to balance the plight of central cities with the concerns of surrounding suburbs and rural regions.
“The intent of forming the Third-Class City Caucus is to find common ground on both sides of the aisle and in both the House and Senate,” he said. “We can no longer afford to consider the plight of our cities as a concern that is separate from the overall welfare of our Commonwealth.”
In previous sessions, Wozniak has proposed numerous bills intended to begin to chip away at the causes of blight and financial distress, but the efforts have remained bottled up in Senate committees.
“I think what’s happening in Harrisburg is finally making people realize that the fiscal decline of cities, which has been something easily ignored in the past, could end in a catastrophic tumbling of dominos that will leave all Pennsylvania taxpayers on the hook,” he said.