Picture this…

A Financial Officer of a city embroiled in a morass of fiscal inefficiency and corruption.

A Mayor he must work with that detests everything about him.

A community at its wits end due to flight of the middle-class, violent crime rising at astronomical rates, taxes going up at the same speed as the crime, and drastically diminished city services.

A dismal school district with seemingly intractable educational deficits.

A controversial and divisive mayor who is constantly causing scandals and community angst.

Things are so bad, higher level government stripped away practically all power from city hall and installed an “oversight committee” charged with handling all financial concerns.

Harrisburg in 2013?city skyline

No. Washington, DC during the 1990’s.

In 1997 the people of DC had enough. They had enough of interesting personalities. They didn’t want fire and flash with little to no tangible results. They had enough of “connected” people that made money and then made off leaving the city high and dry. They didn’t want any more bought and paid for politicians. They had enough of being dubbed the “murder capital of the nation”. They wanted to be known simply as the capital of the nation.

What did they do to fix the situation? They looked toward the person with government experience, financial experience, and a steady and focused demeanor that could get the city back on stable ground. They looked to the CFO of the city, Anthony Williams.

Williams, the adopted son of a couple who lived in Los Angeles, was not a native born District of Columbian. If you are familiar with DC, you would know that the residents are fiercely pro-DC and trust only those that were born there or have lived there for a very, very long time. Political hopefuls must prove themselves by going into the various and diverse neighborhoods and getting “down and dirty” in the trenches, or clean and dignified with the “manor born” as the case may be.

As Mayor, Marion Barry did that and they loved him for it. However, eventually enough was enough, particularly after their hard fought for self-governance rights were stricken by Congressional fiat. The citizens decided it was either sink or swim time. The residents decided to swim, and Anthony Williams was elected to be their political and governmental “swimming coach” during a primary election that had 6 mayoral candidates vying for the position.

And coach he did, even with his decidedly awkward ways. Mayor “Bow Tie” as he was called because of his penchant for that particular kind of attire, was notoriously quirky. Reporters lamented that he would sometimes “go into a trance” and tune them out for a minute or two right in the middle of an interview. His summer ritual was to jump into the deep end of a city pool, in full suit with shoes and bow tie, at the opening of the city pool season. But, the people loved him, too, as he worked hard to stabilize finances by putting into place controls and upgrades to city hall systems. He rooted out cronyism and political corruption that handicapped and practically bankrupted the city.

By the end of his first term, the city was in the black financially and Congress handed DC residents their government back.  Realistically Congress, as I suspect is true for the State of Pennsylvania, has no desire to run a particular city because that takes away from time spent dealing with their own constituents.

But, a government has to do what a government has to do, especially when a capital is in deep trouble.

After Mayor Williams fixed the city government, he did what he dreamed of accomplishing—having a DC that was so stabilized and trusted as an entity that Major League Baseball agreed to come back after snubbing the city since the Senators left in 1972 in the form of the Washington Nationals, which the Harrisburg Senators is the minor league farm team affiliate.

I relate all that to say this—the people of a community must know when to recognize what it really needs during any given era and then have the will to seize the opportunity to attain its goals. That does not mean any other candidate is totally unworthy, it is just a matter of who is best suited for the situation we find ourselves in right now.

Today, DC is a vibrant town that has reversed the trend of the middle-class fleeing the city for the suburbs after many years of downward spiraling and is presently on the upswing and thriving. Families with small children are moving into the city and attending the schools there. Crime has decreased tremendously, property values have increased, unemployment is lower than ever, and the tax base is increasing yearly.

Harrisburg which is not, in my opinion, nearly as depressed and demoralized as DC was in the 1990’s can find itself in and upward trend and thriving  also— in an honest and real way. However, it can only happen if we know what our needs are, can visualize ourselves in a much improved city, and have the knowledge and will to put the right candidate at the right time into the Office of the Mayor.

Dan Miller, the financial professional and government expert, is that right person for us right now.

Like Anthony Williams, Dan Miller is the financial professional we need to stabilize our city, get our government back into the hands of the residents, and move into the future as a whole and viable community. Personality is not enough. Creating a successful business is not enough—although Dan has a wonderful personality, indeed, and is a very successful businessman. However, he also has government management experience, and most importantly in my view, the support of a great number of community members who freely gave him that support after watching his tireless, upstanding, honest and intelligent work for us over many years.

Harrisburg’s future starts now.

What kind of future, Harrisburg, would we like to live in? A city with the same “special interest” groups and outside players influencing city government and controlling every aspect of our lives in order to keep, or enhance, their personal fortunes at taxpayer expense while the rest of us are burdened with withering tax increases, declining property values, increasing crime and declining city services?

I hope we choose the path DC took and look to someone with the experience, commitment, integrity, and independence to do what is in the best interest of all the residents of the Harrisburg community.

While DC is not an urban utopia by any stretch of the imagination, I can attest to the fact that it is much better than it was. There is still hope for us, Harrisburg, but first we must make the right choice during the May Primary and vote Dan Miller.

Rhonda Mays

Rhonda Mays

Rhonda Mays was born and raised in the City of Harrisburg. She lives in North Allison Hill with her twins where she returned after living in Washington DC for a decade. Retired as a budget analyst for the State's Department of Public Welfare, served on the School District's Board of Directors, and strives to make the city better. She has fond memories of growing up and wants her children to have the same.
Rhonda Mays
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