From The City Journal: ‘The Lessons Of Harrisburg‘
It’s a little strange having spent many years growing-up near a place, and then hearing how badly it’s been managed:
‘A Pennsylvania newspaper once described Reed as a mayor who “never met a bond deal he didn’t like.” Give a politician the chance to pile up debt on favored projects without answering directly to voters, and no one should be surprised if he takes advantage of it. That’s why the history of state and local finance is filled with reform moments.’
Much of this transcends party politics and goes more to political power, bad management and collective fiddling…
As previously posted:
‘The Harrisburg School District, so impoverished that the state is helping it dig out of its financial and academic woes, has hit a mother lode of tax dollars, evidently due to several years of financial ineptitude.
In early October the district discovered it had nearly $12 million it didn’t know it had until someone started looking closely at the books.’
Perhaps that money will be put to better use than the incinerator and the Wild West museum boondoggle. Perhaps not.
Under new management again, Harrisburg might have a chance to not be as poorly run as Detroit.
Walter Russell Mead takes a look at similarly bankrupt Jefferson County, Alabama, where Birmingham is located:
‘Will the market still lend to cities after they’ve gone bankrupt?’
Promises made for public employees simply cannot be met in many cases.
Reason used Harrisburg as a model for fiscal failure.
As to my leanings:
It’s no surprise that Obama’s political and ideological allies are going to hold up California as a cultural/political model. This lines up with a rather progressive vision of how society ought to be: Dynamic, creative, tech driven, egalitarian/collectivist if not nearing planned models of equality. Such a society has generous social programs, high taxes, and lots of environmental laws on the books. Public sector unions are big and politically powerful and diversity for its own sake is often held as the highest ideal around.
At the end of the day, it’s a lot more to do with political ideology, money, and over-promising; and much less to do science, art, the next social program etc.
During the last election, a similar vision was sold to the broader electorate as the best way forward for America, for the ’middle-class,’ for the old democratic union base, for black folks, for minorities, for Northeastern democrats and the gentry liberal/multicultural elite in our cities, for the 60′s boomer idealists/NPR class/liberal youth vote in and around many universities and in the suburbs.
And from Michael Lewis’ piece in Vanity Fair, interviewing Vallejo, California mayor, it can get ugly:
“We’re all going to be rich,” he says. “We’re all going to live forever. All the forces in the state are lined up to preserve the status quo. To preserve the delusion. And here—this place—is where the reality hits.”
You can’t outrun that.
Related On This Site: Walter Russell Mead takes a look at the blue model from the ground up in NYC to argue that it’s simply not working. Check out his series at The American Interest.
Richard Epstein At Defining Ideas: ‘City Planners Run Amok’…Virginia Postrel At Bloomberg: ‘How The Elites Built America’s Economic Wall’.
How much of a role does government have to play?: Francis Fukuyama Interviews Peter Thiel-’A Conversation With Peter Thiel’
Dream big: Via Reason: ‘California’s Public Transportation Sinkhole’
A great city deserves great art extravaganzas…: L.A.’s New Public Art Piece ‘The Levitated Mass,’ Or As The American Interest Puts It: ‘A Moving Rock’
California’s anti-immigration, anti-union Democrat: Full video and background on Mickey Kaus here.
Richard Epstein At The Hoover Institution’s Defining Ideas: ‘California’s Kafkaesque Rent Control Laws’
…California Dreamers From The Atlantic-A Brief Review Of Kevin Starr’s History Of California