Kathy Possinger on misguided museums, waterfront investment and valuing candor

     The Susquehanna River runs past Harrisburg.(AP Images)

    The Susquehanna River runs past Harrisburg.(AP Images)

     “Five Questions with …”  is a regular Keystone Crossroads feature where we seek to glean wisdom and ideas from some of Pennsylvania’s top urban thinkers and doers. Kathy Possinger is executive director of Tri County Community Action, a non-profit group working to end the cycle of poverty in Cumberland, Dauphin, and Perry Counties.

     Q: Tell us about an amenity or service that you’ve seen in your travels to other places that you wish you could bring back to Harrisburg.

    A: Harrisburg is blessed with a beautiful and unobstructed waterfront. Char’s is the first restaurant to receive approval to open along the river offering a beautiful view for diners. So many other successful waterfront communities have worked hard to engage their waterfronts, whether through concert or market activities, games, and organized public space activities. I would love to see Harrisburg develop opportunities to engage its waterfront.

    Q: What’s one urban improvement idea that you could categorize as “nice try but didn’t work”?

    A: The museum movement.

    (Editor’s note: Former Mayor Stephen Reed wanted to open five museums in Harrisburg in hopes of attracting tourists. The Pennsylvania National Fire Museum and the National Civil War Museum opened through the initiative and continue to operate; however, no other facilities followed. To help pay down the enormous public debt that’s also part of Reed’s legacy, the city government unloaded thousands of objects bought for the intended National Museum of the American West through a series of auctions during 2006 through 2013).

    Q: Describe a person in your community who is a “spark” — someone who seems to get things done and inspire people. (This does not need to be an elected official.)

    A: Tanya Gordon of Empower Hour Girls Program, HBG. You know Tanya listens and processes all that is around her to inform what she says when she speaks. I listen so I don’t miss her candid views and thoughtful observations about our community. 

    Q: What flaw or habit does your city/community have that you would like to see it change?

    A: We can’t seem to break down the silos or get out of our own way. I think we are well on our way to breaking down silos in services, in community, and in our social circles, but where those silos still exist, we can start to have the conversation and knock down the barriers to partnerships and rebuilding our communities. In the end, we need to build communication to strengthen our relationships — we’re all after the same goal anyways.

    Q: Tell us about a movie or book that depicts, in a way that grabbed your attention, how a city can thrive or fail.

    A: “Cars”!


    Is there someone you know who thinks hard about cities and knows how to get things done?  Someone whom Keystone Crossroads should spend “Five Questions with …”  Please let us know in the comment sections below or via Facebook or Twitter @Pacrossroads.

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