The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Editorials

January 25, 2013

Saving our cities | Wozniak focused on towns' quandaries

JOHNSTOWN — We applaud state Sen. John Wozniak’s efforts to create a caucus in the General Assembly to examine the plight of struggling third-class cities in Pennsylvania.

At the least, he is putting a long-overdue spotlight on small, financially hurting cities such as Johnstown and Altoona, both of which are on the state’s distressed list.

Among the more than 50 legislators said to be showing interest in Wozniak’s caucus proposal is state Rep. Mark Longietti, D-Heritage.

“I’m interested in seeing what some of the ideas are to help these third-class cities,” Longietti told John Finnerty, CNHI’s Harrisburg reporter. “I think there is a recognition at the state level that we need to do something to help these cities or we’re going to have more of them end on the Act 47 Distressed Cities List.”

That would be unfortunate indeed.

Already, 27 municipalities operate under distressed status, which includes special rules and state-appointed supervision.

Johnstown has been on the list since 1992 and bordering Franklin Borough, since 1988.

The governor and Legislature are poised early on this year to tackle critical issues such as deteriorating roads and bridges, huge pension fund debt and a budget for 2013-14.

A special panel delving into the woes of third-class cities would be most appropriate also. We believe Wozniak’s caucus could set the groundwork and collect invaluable data to move Harrisburg forward on this issue.

“You can’t fix (the problems facing small cities) without economic development,” Wozniak told Finnerty. “And that’s going to take investment.”

It’s also going to take better planning and sacrifice on the parts of city government leaders and residents alike in those distressed municipalities.

Cities cannot tax their ways to financial recovery and they cannot borrow money on revenues that won’t be there down the road.

They also cannot sit back, live without changing their ways, and expect everyone else in the state to bail them out.

Fortunately, we don’t think that is the intention of most.

We thank Wozniak and his backers in Harrisburg for taking the lead on this important matter.

 

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