Bankrupt City: Harrisburg, PA Having a Yard Sale to Raise Funds



“Stowed in a warehouse with a leaky skylight is one of this city’s remaining valuable assets: a U.S. Cavalry horse’s hoof purportedly found on the battlefield at Little Bighorn, the site of Lt. Col. George A. Custer’s Last Stand in 1876.”

“The hoof was headed for a National Museum of the Old West here in Pennsylvania’s capital. The museum was never built, but the hoof is now part of Harrisburg’s push to escape $310 million in debt.”

“Few people expect a stampede to buy the stuffed buffalo in the corner. “Quite frankly, it looks like something that was in my grandmother’s attic,” Harrisburg Mayor Linda Thompson recalls saying when she saw the collection.”

“Two weeks ago, the city council filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection. Harrisburg is the second U.S. city to have done so this year. While the move was opposed by Ms. Thompson and Pennsylvania’s governor Tom Corbett, they agree that the city of about 50,000 needs a plan to get out from under its debt. The city is projected to be insolvent within about six months, according to the governor’s office.”

“The word on the street is that everything is for sale,” says Anniken Davenport, a lawyer who has lived here for 25 years.

” Last year, Arizona sold state legislative buildings and other properties for $735 million, leasing them back for 20 years. Pontiac, Mich., sold the Silverdome, former home of the Detroit Lions, for $583,000.”

“The museum idea died when Harrisburg couldn’t pay the debt on the incinerator and ran into grave financial problems. The artifacts cost about $7.8 million, although Ms. Thompson says the records are scattered. A yellowing invoice under an overturned coffee cup in the former water plant shows $12,050 for photographs of William “Buffalo Bill” Cody and scenes from Nevada.”

“Even though Harrisburg looks like a desperate seller, “we are not going to have a fire sale,” Ms. Thompson says.”


  1. We do well to remind ourselves that cities, like individuals, can go bankrupt.

    With the elections upon us, Harrisburg’s example serves to reinforce the value and importance of having good, ethical, people serving in elected office. People who have a desire to make a difference by serving others and not themselves.

    We have seen the donor lists of both parties, and we know that a lot of people are expecting special treatment, should their candidate get elected.

    While we must trust that those who are elected wish to do the very best job they can, the electorate also has a job to perform: to be ever vigilant of what is happening in YOUR government. A job that has been made more difficult in recent times by a disengaged, and sometimes corrupted, fourth estate.


  2. Speaking of bankrupt cities, when Indy hosts the super bowl, just a few months from now, and rakes in all that money, is the Indy Capital Improvement Board going to pay back to the taxpayers of the state of Indiana all the tax money they have received for the support of Lucas Oil Stadium?

    They darn well should!


  3. Amen Pressanykey. We lived in the Indy area before, during, and after the building of Lucas-shrine. I have heard many local Evansville political folks speak in reverent tones of the wonder of such an “achievement” and always have to laugh. Of course no taxpayer will get a rebate on all the money spent on that over cooked fiasco (aka shrine to P. Manning). Heck the Indy CIB is still struggling under the weight of the whole situation. Locally, there were a lots of “creative” taxes installed that citizens of areas outside Indy are still paying. With the way the financial details were set out, I doubt that the general public will ever come out ahead. But then no one cares about the general public.

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