City mayors to convene in Harrisburg

    Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale will deliver the opening address.

    Eight Pennsylvania mayors from six counties will meet next week in the state capital to talk about their cities’ challenges – and potential solutions.

    Allentown, Lancaster, Carlisle, Lemoyne, Mount Wolf, Highspire, Penbrook and Newport’s top elected officials will attend, according to a statement from event organizer Harrisburg Hope, sponsor of dozens of political debates and public forums in the city during the past few years.

    The event begins at 6 p.m. Monday at Harrisburg Community College’s Cooper Student Center, 1 HACC Drive.

    Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale will deliver opening remarks, then the event opens up to the audience for questions after a few from the moderator. Pasquale was York’s economic development director before serving as a state representative and in his current post.

    Allentown Mayor and Pennsylvania Municipal League President Ed Pawlowski recently confirmed he’d attend, along with Newport Mayor Mary Hetrick. Lancaster Mayor Rick Gray and Lemoyne Mayor Larissa York will be there. So will Tim Scott, the first African American mayor of Carlisle, and Mount Wolf Mayor Maureen Starner, who won her seat thorugh a write-in campaign. Highspire Mayor John Hoerner and Penbrook Mayor Kenneth Cramer round out the panel.

    Cramer, whose borough neighbors Harrisburg, has said he wouldn’t agree to merge Penbrook with the distressed capital city because it wouldn’t benefit his constituency.

    And Hoerner helped lead the charge to remove Highspire from its joint school district with Steelton, a poor community that also borders Harrisburg, and send students to Middletown instead. A judge approved the move one week ago.

    Mergers often are mentioned as options for municipalities and school districts. Pennsylvania has numerous combined school districts, but local governments have never merged in the Commonwealth. They’re rare nationally, too, partly because Cramer’s hestiations are fairly universal for leaders of more stable communities.

    Similar logic guides regionalization, but that typically involves consolidating specific services rather than entire communities. That seems to be more palatable in Pennsylvania; for example, 34 regional police forces have been established in the Commonwealth.

    In addition to regionalization and public safety, the panel is expected to discuss sustainability. Lancaster was recently recognized by the League for it’s best practices in sustainablity. There will also be discussion on education and taxes, which are being utilized in an innovative way through the state’s singular Neighborhood Improvement Zone in Allentown.

     Editor’s note: this post has been changed to reflect the updated list of confirmed panelists.

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