Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Paul Kanjorski And His Act 47 Cities

PA2010 featured this article about Paul Kanjorski's attempts to attack Repulican Lou Barletta's stewardship of the City of Hazleton.

The local focus, in campaign e-mail missives to reporters framing Barletta as a failed mayor, mirror efforts by Democratic incumbents across the country to localize races that Republicans prefer to play on national issues. Whether Kanjorski’s criticisms gain any political traction—and whether they will form a foundation for his paid media campaign against Barletta—remains to be seen.

From the Pennsylvania Legislator’s Municipal Deskbook, Third Edition (2006)
Municipal Fiscal Distress and Recovery

In an effort to address the short-term and long-term financial difficulties faced by municipalities in the 1980s, the Municipalities Financial Recovery Act was enacted in 1987. This statute, commonly known as
Act 47, accomplishes four objectives:

1. A state assistance plan was developed to aid distressed municipalities to restore their financial integrity while leaving principal responsibility for the conduct of financial affairs to its locally elected officials.

2. Procedures for a distressed municipality to file a municipal debt readjustment (bankruptcy) under federal law were updated.

3. A method was established to consolidate or merge distressed municipalities that no longer are considered viable with more viable communities. (Note: These provisions were later repealed and replaced by the Municipal Consolidation or Merger Act.2 )

4. A grant and loan program was established to assist distressed municipalities in paying their current operating expenses, thereby allowing them to use locally generated revenue to retire debt.

Act 47, in a nutshell, includes the following:
  • Provides criteria for identifying distress.
  •  Outlines the powers and duties of the Department of Community and Economic Development in assisting a community to alleviate its distressed status.
  • Grants standing to numerous parties to request a determination of municipal financial distress.
  • Specifically provides a procedure for declaring a municipality as being distressed and subsequently authorizing the appointment of a distressed municipality coordinator.
  • Requires the formulation of a fiscal plan unique to the distressed municipality, which will enable the municipality to remedy its distress status.
  • Gives the distressed municipality the option of formulating its own fiscal plan.
  • Requires the Commonwealth to withhold all state funds except those considered absolutely essential when a distressed municipality refuses to adopt a fiscal solvency plan.
  • If needed, authorizes a distressed municipality to file a municipal debt readjustment action under federal law.

According to the Pennsylvania State of Innovation website there are nineteen municipalities in Pennsylvania under Act 47. Four of those municipalities (21%)are located in Kanjorsk's congressional district and have distress determinations under Act 47- West Hazleton since 2003, Scranton since 1992, Township of Plymouth since 2004 and Kanjorski's own hometown, Nanticoke since 2006.

The City of Hazleton is not on that list. Mitchell's proselytizing statements about mismanagement are a desparate attempt to save his candidate. Kanjorski saddled Nanticoke with the failed Kanjorski center. Kanjorski was their solicitor from 1969 to 1981.

Here is an assessment by Kanjorski of Nanticoke's plight in 2003. "Nanticoke has definitely been going through a transition," he admitted. "It suffered, like all of Northeastern Pennsylvania, from the devastation of the coal mining industry, and that happened probably in the late 40s when gas and oil became standard fuels, replacing anthracite."

Kanjorski explained that the American trend of leaving cities for suburban areas is a factor.

"What has happened in Nanticoke is basically in transition from a thriving center core population to a bedroom city," he said.
The decline of Nanticoke's downtown is representative of what is happening throughout the U.S.

"I look back and think if I return to Nanticoke after 20 years, the downtown will have several new buildings, boutique shops and retail stores, parking to accommodate them, houses up to standard," he said. "(There will be) a high quality of life, and a periphery of jobs and parks around the community and new communities around those areas ... Assuming the area can attract the kinds of jobs and industry that will sustain this kind of growth."

Kanjorski said there are two very promising prospects for offices in downtown Nanticoke, which he said, is working on moving along as fast as he can.

There is $2 million in grants for Market Street - part of, which is a Keystone Opportunity Zone - which John Toole said, has been "sitting there for years."

"We've had a lot of plans for Market Street, and they just haven't taken off yet," John Toole said. "I always have people contacting me, and the (chamber) does too, looking for small or certain-sized spaces to lease."

Now Nanticoke is in a distressed financial situation. Kanjorski should e answering questions on what he is going to do about the plight of the cities in his district. After all he wants to continue representing them.

Paul Kanjorski should take responsibility for his role in their plight and concentrate on the situation in his own home town before he focuses on Hazleton.

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