Harrisburg Mayor Papenfuse marks 100 days in office - abc27 WHTM

Harrisburg Mayor Papenfuse marks 100 days in office

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Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse has spent 100 days in office. On Wednesday he discussed his accomplishments and frustrations as the city's leader thus far.

Donning a maroon tie with various bridges stitched in the fabric, Mayor Eric Papenfuse wore symbolism around his neck to depict his first 100 days in office. One he describes as his "building bridges" tie, typically reserved for city council meetings.

While Papenfuse reflected his first 100 days in office, he explained those bridges are still being built between City Council and the Mayor's Office.

The mayor began touting what he viewed as success in the city: mainly the recovery process. Papenfuse said it was remarkable how quickly Harrisburg arose out of Receivership and implemented a 'TRAN,' or person appointed to oversee the transition and carry out "Harrisburg Strong," the court-approved recovery plan.

Papenfuse said the city has made its first General Obligation bond payment in several years. The city's credit has been improved, which has allowed to make way for responsible borrowing. The mayor touted the success of the Public Works Department making good on a recovery plan deal to relocate its facility, earning $300,000.

"To have dealt with it as efficiently as much as long-term debt as we did, is a pretty extraordinary thing," he said.

Other key achievements include improvements to public safety, according to Papenfuse. He said police have responded to 1,900 calls, but major areas of crime are down.

Harrisburg has had three homicides to date. Authorities have linked two to domestic disputes. He said property crime and burglaries are the lowest they have been. He is pleased with the work Chief Tom Carter and Community Policing Coordinate Dave Botero has accomplished.

The mayor said relationships have gone well with Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico. Both rolled out an illegal gun program that promises harsher penalties and increased bail amounts for offenders.

The mayor said he's also in constant talks with former Susquehanna Township Police Chief Rob Martin, who acts as an advisor to help coordinate crime efforts.

Papenfuse said the restructuring of the city's police department has allowed more foot patrols to engage with residents in neighborhoods on a daily basis, his personal favorite.

"I am quite proud of the fact that I think we have really fundamentally transformed the approach to policing in Harrisburg," Papenfuse said.

The mayor said communication between city government and the public has improved as well. The mayor points to an overhaul of the city's website, application process, and overall response to residents' issues.

When asked about regrets or disappointments, Papenfuse quickly addresses the fire union contract not being ratified. He also said his administration's comprehensive plan on economic development has been delayed because City Council wielded power and put up roadblocks during the budget process.

Papenfuse points to council's hesitancy and lack of urgency.

"It would be as easy as the fact that one member campaigning for Lieutenant Governor [Brad Koplinski] and hasn't had time to be here and schedule a meeting."

abc27 reached out to Koplinski for response and was unavailable.

Although the mayor has performed several marriages his first 100 days in office, he feels City Council never gave him a honeymoon phase. He said that could be because some view the recovery plan was not the answer or because he is aggressive on seeking justice and accountability for past transgressions by city leaders.

According to Papenfuse, his office is not trying to be combative.

"We want to go to city council on everything," he said.

The mayor waxed on how he believes past mayors have burned council in past years, and they may hold similar grudges against him.

"It is hard to change old suspicions and an old pattern," Papenfuse said. "I think it's going to take a little bit of time."

The mayor now has 1,360 days until the first term expires, if not elected again—perhaps a reason why he decided to wear his 'building bridges' tie to deliver what typically is a political formality.

The mayor said relationships are becoming stronger with state and federal lawmakers, having periodical meetings about various funding streams.

Papenfuse said he does not regret taking a stand against Bishop A.E. Sullivan or Harrisburg Schools Chief Recovery Officer Gene Veno. He still stands behind his decision to ask for Veno's removal based on a backroom conversation.

The mayor said he is in the process of forming an interfaith council, building relationships between city government and religious leaders around Harrisburg. Papenfuse said he hoped this could be a useful alternative to the Inter-Denominational Ministers Conference [IMC], which Sullivan was heavily involved in.

Moving forward, Papenfuse said residents should see action on fixing roads, using PennDOT and other grant money. The mayor said the near future should see improvements to Parks and Recreation, child programs, the art community, and continuous improvements in economic development in the business community.

Papenfuse said the 12-hour days and countless meetings are all "worth it." Personally, he said, being mayor has been the most fulfilling experience.

One achievement Papenfuse failed to mention was the high honor of having Philadelphia Steaks and Hoagies naming a specialty cheesesteak after the mayor known as "The Fuse."

"That...didn't make the list?! I don't know why," he said jokingly. "But I was just there two days ago and enjoyed the cheesesteak again."

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