I haven’t done this in awhile, write in “I”. But for this one, I’m doing it.
There are new ventures on the horizon, and at this juncture, it seems appropriate to go back to the roots, to the old “blog” days of today’s the day Harrisburg, aka Tara Leo Auchey, aka tla.
The blog days were much more a chronicling of my experience as a citizen—someone who lived, worked, and played here in the City of Harrisburg. I still spoke about the real issues I noticed, but I spoke more from my point-of-view. How I saw it, how I personally lived it. Started in November 2009, I wrote much more in “I” and spoke much more directly to my audience. I wrote about trash and developers in my neighborhood. I wrote about frustrating public processes for what should be basic, accessible information. I wrote about neglect and blight and ways to enrich. I wrote about going to City Council and about what I saw, not just in City Council Chambers but out in the atrium afterwards as well. I wrote about conversations and exchanges I had on the street.
I wrote about politics. I wrote about education. I wrote about public meetings and community workshops. I wrote about racial tension and missed opportunities. I wrote about urban gardening. Pretty much the same things I write about now, but with much less “I” in my accounts, although the firsthand experiences, research, and impressions are still there. I’ve always written about the shames, strifes, secrets, struggles, and aspirations of the City.
Of any incident I’ve written about, the one that is the quintessential metaphor of our City’s situation—the bulldozing of the N6th Street Green Urban Initiative Garden in September 2012. That incident symbolizes the essence of why I have so firmly persevered through the misunderstandings, lack of communication, divisiveness, and adversity running rampant through the overall City of Harrisburg community. That incident is a symbol of the need for new approaches, new ways, and new leaders. Of new understandings.
For many reasons—which I will readily discuss in detail at another time—the City of Harrisburg is stuck doing the same thing over and over. There’s a whole contingent of people that like it that way. Another that doesn’t know any different, and yet another contingent who just doesn’t care. The ones who like it that way, like the predictable structures and rules. Power is passed down from one to the other as long as you’re a player at the table and come bearing trade-offs and obedience where need be. For those who don’t know any different, the same ole same ole works well because it is routine. It doesn’t shake them up or wake them up. The those that don’t care, that includes the never have and the once did. If someone cared once but doesn’t care anymore, then usually their apathy is compounded with bitterness, and that embitterment sours the air of the City.
Striving to encompass that all-inclusive sense of community that comes from living in a shared place is no easy task around here. There’s such distrust in Harrisburg that it’s hard to even start to discuss a shared identity. Too many groups of people aren’t willing to talk. Suspicion begins right off the bat, and too often is based on color of skin and assumptions about where everyone is from. There’s also a tinge of competition, of someone getting in and getting more. There’s just plumb dislike before a chance is given. And that goes for the people and places that neighbor the City, too, in the suburbs and municipalities around, whether Susquehanna Township or Wormleysburg. The concept of a whole place, of a capital region with its urban center is too often shunned in distaste at the thought that there’s even possible an effective collaboration between “us” and “them.”
To get there, to a place where “us” and “them” becomes “we,” the City of Harrisburg has to reconsider and figure out its own dynamics and own sense of order. We’re a divided populace. The standard differences apply—skin color, socio-economics, religion, sexuality, age. But then there’s a whole other realm of differentiation. There’s a hierarchy of hegemony, a calculation of knowing one’s place, and an acceptance of playing by the rules set in place by those who adjust at whim and make new rules up if need be. The people “who like it that way,” are secure in their practices and relationships. They are confident in their dealings and conduct as well as in their attitudes and beliefs. They especially don’t like the idea of the City redefining itself and its leaders, which is starting to become apparent already as the race to be the Mayor of the City of Harrisburg heats up. The cliché competition of Linda Thompson versus Dan Miller has now been somewhat upset with the inclusion of Eric Papenfuse who will strive to succeed in the middle with perhaps the unintentional help of fourth contender Lewis Butts. Butts may be able to spread a necessary message about the need for true change, not manufactured or promised with guarantees. There are citizens who will be willing to listen to Butts because they know he clearly switched points-of-view about what Harrisburg needs and what community means.
What Harrisburg needs is a new brand. It doesn’t matter so much who the elected officials are. As the City seeks to redefine itself, leaders can, will, and are emerging to rise above the quagmire of the old ways dying. As a dear friend of mine said about the few who are stepping forward with good ideas and proven methods, the minority will be the majority.
It must be the roots
It’s with that mantra I head full force into 2013 with one month under the belt. Full force means today’s the day Harrisburg will keep on keeping on. And as it does, the goal is to be more and provide more to the citizenry of the City of Harrisburg. today’s the day Harrisburg has stretched and grown, but one thing has been stable—it’s an accessible and reliable place for news, information, options, updates, happenings, and perspectives about living, working, and playing in the City of Harrisburg. City living is a unique experience in this region, especially in a city metamorphosing into a revived phase. It’s exciting to be a part of the current evolution amidst an increasingly attentive and inquiring local, regional, and state-wide audience. Some days, it’s even national.
No matter the project or product, it takes collaboration, though, and that’s another “more of it” aim of today’s the day Harrisburg this year. Not only from a community standpoint but also from a professional standpoint. Work with James Roxbury and Roxbury News will continue at our Capitol newsroom perch. Together he and I are looking for ways to be more informative and more in depth. I’ve also partnered up with The Burg Magazine to write a monthly column that will focus on the intersection of the City of Harrisburg and the State of Pennsylvania. As the capital city of PA, Harrisburg has a curious position not only in terms of Act 47, Receivership, and a struggling 3rd Class City (like so many in PA), but also in the physical sense of being home to the capital and what that means.
And as if that’s not enough writing, I’ve agreed to join forces with Penn Live to write a weekly piece that will be featured on Tuesdays online and Thursdays in print. This is definitely an interesting undertaking, one that I’m looking forward to watching unfold. The feature will be called “Q&A with tla.” The concept is that each week, I’ll write in response to a reader’s question about the City of Harrisburg. While I’m still working out the precise parameters (that’s the first article next week), the scope will be anything and everything Harrisburg from history to politics to architecture to curiosities galore.
As my mother said, “How will you do all that?” I’m not quite sure yet, but I know I’m going to do it. I’ve always seemed to be able to find the energy and motivation I need from the City of Harrisburg; it must be the roots. These opportunities and strategic partnerships to help spread the truth and value of our capital city along the river are too important to pass up. So look around for today’s the day Harrisburg. In 2013, it will be in many places with much to say.
Here’s the link to the new venture: Q&A with tla: What ‘s this new Harrisburg thing?