Johnstown has hundreds of blighted properties, a growing drug-related crime problem and a financial albatross of a pension obligation.
And it is not alone.
Many municipalities across Pennsylvania face similar problems.
On Tuesday, Democratic Party gubernatorial candidate Katie McGinty announced her plan to address the blight issue during a visit to Johnstown, where she also spoke about crime and pensions.
“I’m proposing a plan that would reinvest in our downtowns, support municipalities with dollars and cents to clean up abandoned areas, take initiatives to support new greenways and parks, but then also address a key issue that municipalities face and that’s pension funds and the cost of those funds, providing support to reduce the cost, consolidate and enable a better return for taxpayers through those funds,” McGinty said during a news conference held at Somerset Trust Co. on Market Street.
She proposed a $300 million bond initiative with the money to be used for dealing with blighted and abandoned properties, developing green spaces and parks, and helping municipalities attract private-sector investment. Money would be allocated through loan guarantees and community-focused grants.
Her pension proposal could potentially generate up to $3.5 billion by improving investment income, redirecting some existing funds to strengthen stressed pensions and placing a temporary surcharge on the foreign fire and casualty tax.
Last week, McGinty called for spending $8.5 million over three years to hire 1,000 new police officers throughout the commonwealth. Distressed municipalities such as Johnstown would have 100 percent of their costs for the new officers covered during the time period. She also wants to invest in technology upgrades, bulletproof vests and police consolidation studies.
“We know that our streets also need to be safe. I’ve also proposed a significant increase in community policing,” said McGinty.
“Through the initiative I announced last week, we’d put another 1,000 police officers on the beat, on our streets, working in communities together with religious leaders, with local organizations, with youth leaders, so that they can become part of the community and help stop some of the crime waves we have seen taking root in our communities.”
Dave Sutor is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/Dave_Sutor.