Former Harrisburg Mayor Stephen Reed may not be charged with a crime, but there can be no denying the vandalism-like damage he did to the city’s financial state over his 28 years in office. During he term, he amassed a total of $459.2 million in debts.

That legacy of spending in the impoverished city in Pennsylvania has today’s leaders looking to sell off assets and potentially avoid bankruptcy. But the outlook isn’t good.

He borrowed $300 million to renovate a trash-to-energy incinerator. He spent $7 million to bring a Double-A Baseball team to the city. He wanted to spent another $391.3 million to build a hydro-electric dam, but regulators stopped the deal.

Despite that failed attempt to build a dam, the city is facing a wall of debt – more than eight times its general fund budget. So the question has become: will Harrisburg survive?


Stephen Reed, Harrisburg’s mayor for 28 years, pushed Pennsylvania’s capital into insolvency as the more than $500 million in bond deals he oversaw to finance community development drained city coffers.

An incinerator overhaul, with related debt now topping $300 million, capped the Democrat’s mayoral career. While not the largest, it was the riskiest of his credit-fueled projects, which may lead the city of 49,500 to enter bankruptcy as early as July, after a law barring that step expires.

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