Harrisburg City Hall needs some major fixing up. Upgrades are proposed in next year's budget, but Mayor Linda Thompson also has a wish list of her own.
Thompson wants to buy a $500 camera and spend a least $1,000 on a copier so she can hand out pictures to her supporters. It's public money, and with a state take-over looming, city leaders may not be the ones deciding how to spend it.
The roof at city hall is leaking. The sky lights are in need of repair. A giant, expensive rental air conditioner is out back. While plans for a permanent fix are in the works, there are other problems.
“We could use a complete technological overhaul. It is much needed,” councilwoman Patty Kim said.
It's so bad, we're told, some workers are using the wireless Internet provided by a nearby hotel because it's faster and more reliable than the city's.
“The IT situation is probably more critical than the maintenance system as far as the building is concerned,” city spokesman Bob Philbin said.
In next year's budget, more than $300,000 has been requested to fix the system. Also in the budget is a $1,500 request from Thompson. Harrisburg journalist James Roxbury recorded Thompson telling her finance director why she wants money for a camera and copier.
“Various banquets I'm invited to as the leader of this city, and people want photos of me,” Thompson said. “I am history. I'm the first woman mayor, the first African-American mayor, and people want to be able to say they took a picture with their mayor.”
Why not e-mail the photos and save a buck or two on printing?
“They don't have e-mail access, some of the citizens, some of the groups,” Philbin said.
Philbin said Thompson didn't use photography money Council approved last year.
Kim said she's disappointed in Thompson's request, given the city's overall financial state.
“We are proud to have the first African-American woman mayor. It is huge for the city. But to feel that she's obligated to give pictures to people who want it, priorities are screwed up there,” she said.
Kim and Philbin agreed that the 2012 budget could be out the window if there's a state takeover, because an outsider would likely control spending. They also agreed that City Council still has time to develop its own financial recovery plan in an effort to avoid state intervention.