Historical City Council Meeting

Tuesday night’s Legislative Session of the Harrisburg City Council was likely the most significant City Council meeting since the passage of the current City Charter 40 years ago.

First, with tremendous understatement, DCED briefly introduced an Interim Coordinator they have appointed while the Act 47 hearing process continues. It brings real help — and not the Scott Balice firm — to our city government in examining and addressing how they manage this City. He is Bob O’Donnell, former speaker of the State House of Representatives and a lawyer familiar with municipal finance.

The second and most important event was City Council unanimously approving a Resolution that recommends engaging the New York law firm of Cravath, Swaine and Moore to advise on the good and the bad of pursuing Act 47 and Chapter 9. Council has 2 weeks to finalize the process of bringing them on board.

Even better, though a true national powerhouse law firm, Cravath has offered to bring their might and fierce national reputation to the aid of the taxpayers of Harrisburg PRO BONO as a public service. That’s right. No attorneys’ fees. They are one of the most respected and feared law firms in the nation, and we now have them as a great champion on our side. They should be applauded for their commitment to the legal profession and unflinching sense of public service.

The road is still long and fraught with peril, but our company on this journey is now much, much stronger.


Week 3 Update

1. In regard to Act 47 hearing, on Tuesday, a telephone conference of legal counsel occurred to review pending issues, but no formal action was taken.

2. DWH participated in the weekly meeting of Dauphin County Commissioners, essentially introducing the group to the Commissioners and voicing our concern with a litigation strategy that ultimately means that taxpayers incur the legal costs of three (3) local parts of our government – the County, the City and the Authority – fighting each other in court. We encouraged that our local governments become aligned in order to resist the actions of the banks, bondholders and insurers.

3. DWH held a public meeting to review the goals of the organization, the list of seven (7) currently pending legal proceedings related to the DEBT CRISIS, and other issues. We discussed the need for taxpayers to be protected from these proceedings, as our interests seem to have been lost in the legal proceedings.

4. Members of DWH attended the first-ever THA budget meeting on Thursday.

5. There are more THA budget meetings coming up and we encourage everyone to attend. (click: Meetings & Noticesfor dates)

6. City Council has a Legislative Session on Tuesday, 11/9  @  6:00 p.m. We are hoping they take swift action on hiring a firm to advise the on Act 47 and Chapter 9.  Please, show up and be heard.

Thanks for all who have inquired about our group!

And remember (as a new member said), WE’RE WATCHING!


Neil A. Grover


Week 2 Update

1. We plan to have a meeting of members and other interested persons considering membership next Wednesday, November 3rd @ 7 p.m. at the Derry Street Methodist Church, 1508 Derry St. There’s a parking lot along the side of the church and the side door will be open.

2. DEBT WATCH HARRISBURG issued a Rate Proposal for Legal Fees to both City Council and the responding law firms who expressed interest in advising the City on Chapter 9 Bankruptcy and Act 47. We seek to create a governmental rate to be charged to the City that is linked to the rate formula the U.S. Government pays to private attorneys who prevail in certain cases against the government, which is currently $175.25 per hour. This is FAR below the rates most firms would charge. (See “Public Documents” to read letter).

3. We filed additional documents this week with DCED that addressed issues involving last week’s hearing and how Act 47 should be reviewed in Harrisburg’s unique situation. As of Thursday evening, we are awaiting rulings on a variety of matters. (See “Public Documents” to view the documents).

4. We appeared before The Harrisburg Authority Wednesday evening to urge them to prepare to transition the Incinerator and related “projects” back to the City, a step that should be done that will actually DECREASE the taxpayers overall liabilities here (more on that to come).

5. Dauphin County filed another lawsuit against the City and The Harrisburg Authority this week. Once again, we the taxpayers are paying for legal counsel for all sides.

6. Finally, we have tweaked our requirements a little, as we are allowing Committee people who are otherwise eligible for membership to join. These people, though elected, are party officials and not public officials. Public officials, both elected and appointed, are still ineligible for membership.

Thanks to everyone for your interest in and support of DEBT WATCH HARRISBURG. Remember, if you own real estate in the City; live in the City and have a job anywhere (pay local income taxes to HBG); or if you pay Business Privilege/Mercantile Taxes to Harrisburg, you are eligible for membership. If you’re ineligible, you can still sign up for our electronic mailing list.

Thank you again,

Neil A. Grover

First Week Update

It was a good first week for our new Harrisburg taxpayers’ organization.

Standing together, we collectively and effectively stated our case to the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) and anyone else listening. The work is far from done. I think the public servants working at DCED understand that if we oppose a position they take, we do not do so as their enemy. We are citizens simply demanding and expecting our public officials to perform their duties as public servants, keeping the rights of the people in the forefront of their mind. We simply seek integrity, fairness and competence if those who serve in these important roles of governance. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Over the weekend, various filings and communications that DEBT WATCH HARRISBURG presented to DCED will be posted on our website for public view (see “Public Documents“), as will the City’s responses. It is troubling that our City Administration would oppose the requests and demands of their own citizens and taxpayers for a more full and complete record at a Hearing on an Application that they assert was submitted on our behalf. DWH is not an enemy of the Administration. We simply disagree on some paths they have chosen, and some they’ve foregone or overlooked.

The Administration should be aware that DCED itself has very little money available to it to provide to Harrisburg, as it has 16 or so other Distressed Municipalities ahead of us in line. They plainly do not have anywhere near enough funds to legally transfer to help Harrisburg meet a full payroll, yet alone cover its projected cash-flow deficit. DCED cannot pledge the full faith and credit of the Commonwealth to back a bank loan taken by our City, so the instantaneous passage of an ACT 47 application does not provide any real leverage in the necessary short term borrowing being sought. One just does not have a financial or legal relationship to the other. For those who claim otherwise, show us the facts and the source of such claims.

Meeting a $1.2 million payroll requires roughly $25.00 per resident of Harrisburg. I urge CREDC and the Chamber to now bring their money, clout, and ingenuity to bear for the short term needs for our City to make payroll. They have publicly spoken of wanting our City to succeed; have had their members benefit from a long development boom; enjoyed the fruits of long-term tax abatements; and participated in the growth of this City. Please step forward and participate in the time of need, not as a knee jerk public relations move or political spin, but as an act of true citizenship.

On behalf of all of the members of DWH (I think we are about 40 and growing in just 7 days), I want to thank our fellow citizens for your strong support and kind words.



Email us at [email protected]. with the following information:

Name, address, email address, & phone #.  Indicate which of these applies to you:

  • pays real estate taxes in Harrisburg.
  • pays Earned Income taxes to the City of Harrisburg.
  • required to pay Business Privilege/Mercantile Taxes to the City of Harrisburg.

Please know our plan is simple. We will be doing the job we stepped up to do until the job is done.


Please join me and your fellow citizens in the formation of a new taxpayer organization, DEBT WATCH HARRISBURG.

Our purpose: To demand that taxpayers be heard in those public, legal proceedings that will determine the future of our City. We need to make known that taxpayers’ rights and taxpayers’ interests need to be placed ahead of those who knowingly and irresponsibly facilitated this Debt Crisis, against those who authorized or participated in the creation of a municipal debt burden that now threatens to crush local taxpayers.

In the days to come, the State and the Courts will be deciding our future, so we need to be fully heard by them. Where possible, we need people to be held accountable. In doing these things, we must push to transform our local government to ensure that from now on, responsible and transparent use of public monies will be the practice and good government the new norm.

With these principals in mind, DEBT WATCH HARRISBURG’s purpose will be to:

  • Give independent voice to taxpayers by demanding we be heard in those legal and public proceedings that will determine the future of our City.
  • Have taxpayers’ rights & interests placed ahead of those who caused this Debt Crisis.
  • Seek accountability and the recapture of public monies that were recklessly paid in exorbitant fees for unworkable and irresponsible public projects.

Who is welcome as members? You are welcome to join us if you are a taxpayer who seeks these same goals and qualify as follows:

  • Be an individual and family who pay real estate taxes in Harrisburg.
  • Be an individual who pays Earned Income taxes to the City of Harrisburg.
  • Be required to pay Business Privilege/Mercantile Taxes to the City of Harrisburg.

Sorry, local elected or appointed public officials will be ineligible for membership.

Please join us. We will be a meeting on Tuesday, October 19, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. at the Midtown Scholar Bookstore, 1302 North Third Street in Harrisburg, across from the Broad Street Market. If you wish to contact us, we can be reached at [email protected]

We need to do this together. We need to do this now. We need to be heard.

Yours most respectfully and sincerely,

Neil A. Grover, Esquire