It’s not easy being a city in Pennsylvania.
But Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf said part of the problem is inside our own heads.
“We now think cities are sort of basket cases,” said Wolf on Monday. “They’re not. Cities are the wave of the future. Dense population centers are what people really want … one of the things that we have to start with is the assumption that cities really have a strong future.”
The York County businessman rattled off some of the challenges cities face: Concentration of poverty. Limited means for revenue because of tax-exempt properties such as worship centers, universities, and hospitals. De facto racial segregation.
Can state government come to their rescue? Sure, said Wolf – but he said it’s going to take more than the public works projects and economic development aid that’s often used to revive downtowns.
“The grants that typically come out of a place like Harrisburg can be very helpful for cities, but I think we need to recognize that is not the sum total of what cities need,” Wolf said. “Cities need to have, I think, a recognition — a relief — from some of the burdens they have.”
State lawmakers are wrestling with legislation to help struggling cities recover from financial troubles. A proposal still in the works would rehab a state program that’s become notoriously bad at getting cities on the right track.
Wolf spoke at the Pennsylvania Press Club monthly luncheon in Harrisburg, to a gathering of reporters, lobbyists, officials, and other operatives. He did not stick around afterward to answer reporters’ follow-up questions.