Harrisburg mayoral candidates debate at HACC

Four of the five candidates running for mayor of Harrisburg came to the campus of Harrisburg Area Community College Thursday night for a debate.

The event was hosted by the group Harrisburg Hope.

The debate may have been on the outskirts of town, but scores of Harrisburg residents showed up to hear the candidates.

“I know what we need for our city,” said Democratic candidate Lewis Butts.

“I'm the most knowledgeable, the most experienced elected official here tonight,” said current Mayor Linda Thompson.

“I worked with budgets the size of Labor and Industry's budgets,” said Independent Nevin Mindlin, the only non-Democrat in the group .”I certainly know how to deal with budgets.”

“I testified before the Act 47 hearings, saying we had to have the leverage of bankruptcy,” said another Democratic candidate, Eric Papenfuse.

Among the many subjects discussed were crime and finances.

“The more money we make, the happier our creditors are going to be,” said Butts, who has long touted the idea of putting a hydro-electric dam on the Susquehanna River. “The hydro-electric dam is going to bring in more than $240 million annually off the river.”

Both Mindlin and Papenfuse portrayed themselves as an alternative to the mayor and as someone who could bring the city together. Papenfuse said he's done that with his Midtown Scholar book store.

“I think that we have created a space in the book store which you can judge,” Papenfuse said. “It is one of the few places in Harrisburg where people come to transcend those divisions on a regular basis.”

The mayor didn't let that one go by without a swing.

“Don't tell me it's going to take a book store to bring responsible, intelligent people together,” she said. “And I don't need to be a business woman to run the city. I am running this city and I am running it effectively considering the crisis that we have but we're turning the corner now.”

Mindlin said city government can help Harrisburg schools improve by helping the community, which will make it easier for teachers to teach.

“It's time for some real independent thinking,” said Mindlin. “It's time we started to come together as a community, have a serious conversation and learn how to work together.”

Democratic candidate Dan Miller did not participate in the debate. 

“I am disappointed in Harrisburg Hope's decision to schedule its mayoral debate for April 11th despite being fully aware I would not be available to participate until the following week,” Miller said in a statement earlier this week. “Unfortunately, my offer to send a representative was rejected, as well. I explained to the organizers of the debate, I have an obligation as an accountant that peaks on April 15th and therefore must focus on my responsibility to my clients. I recently released a schedule of the debates in which I'll participate and look forward to explaining my positions on important issues.”

Harrisburg Hope responded, saying it was never told Miller could not attend on that specific date.

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